Dea Makes His Return To Wilkes-Barre
WILKES-BARRE — Jean-Sebastien Dea was determined to make a good first impression with the New Jersey Devils.
He did, going to work every day “dialed in” and putting together what he thought was a really good 20-game audition. However, it still wasn’t enough to keep the team from placing him on waivers last week.
“It’s a business; it’s part of the game,” Dea said Tuesday. “Obviously, everybody here wants to be in the NHL. But now that I’m here (with the Penguins), I just want to work hard and help the young guys who are here to have a good attitude and have fun. I think I’m still lucky to have a chance to play hockey.”
And, of course, he wants to return to Pittsburgh.
The forward was back on the Toyota SportsPlex ice for the first time after the parent club claimed him off waivers and reassigned him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. His addition is a huge boost for the Penguins, who are trying to snap a cold streak of eight losses over their last 10 games.
Dea had five points (3G-2A) with New Jersey, where he was reunited with former Penguins coaches John Hynes and Alain Nasreddine. Even if he didn’t stick with the club, the 24-year-old said he learned a lot from his stay there and is a more confident player than he was last season.
That’s a scary thought for other teams in the AHL, as Dea was named Penguins MVP in 2017-18 with a career-high 50 points.
When he first heard that Pittsburgh was likely going to be the team that claimed him, he was happy even though the team’s organizational depth at center has proven tough to crack.
“I’d rather be here than going to Binghamton,” Dea said. “I’d rather be here where everything started. It’s not always easy to start with a new team and new teammates. I knew coming here, I would feel comfortable. It feels like home for me. I’ve been here so long that it’s like my second home.”
He didn’t score in last weekend’s losses to Rochester and Toronto, but he helped generate a plethora of scoring chances. He had nine shots on Friday, far more than he had in any game last season, and he recorded two assists against the Marlies. He can also contribute on both special teams.
Dea was happy to be reunited with Ryan Haggerty, as the two were frequently paired on the team’s top line last season. One of his goals now is to help the snakebitten Haggerty get his elusive first tally.
Beyond his skill set, Dea also brings a familiar veteran aura that has been somewhat missing with the absence of captain Garrett Wilson. Combine all those factors, and a confident Dea is a big asset for the team. “His presence, he’s a veteran here in the league,” head coach Clark Donatelli said. “It’s just good having him around. He leads by example. He’s a good pro and he’s been there. He’s been here for a long time in the organization. He’s been through some ups and downs, and he has a lot to convey to the younger guys.”
Donatelli said the team is making adjustments to its penalty-kill units after they allowed three goals in Saturday’s 7-4 loss.
“Changes in partners; Dips (Thomas Di Pauli) and Teddy (Blueger), we’re going to split those guys up,” Donatelli said. “We’re gonna have more guys killing and kind of rolling them over. But, the big thing is just getting pucks down when they’re on our sticks, having chances to get them down, and not getting them down. And, we have to block more shots.”
The Penguins took a 2-0 lead in the first 3 minutes of the game, but allowed two 5-on-3 goals and a regular 5-on-4 goal over the next 4:12 to immediately fall behind.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is now tied with Binghamton at the bottom of the AHL with a 73.5-percent kill rate, more than 15 percent behind league leader Providence.
Tim Erixon, Chris Summers and Dea all went to the penalty box for stick violations, which Donatelli said the team still needs to cut down on.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen that happen since I’ve been here — two 5-on-4s turn into 5-on-3s within 2 minutes,” he said. “It’s frustrating to watch ... Obviously, we’re not trying to do it. It’s just we’re putting ourselves in bad situations with sticking penalties.”
Forward Tobias Lindberg skated in a red sweater Tuesday and is still day to day with his upper-body ailment.
Sam Miletic is week to week after leaving Friday’s game against Rochester. He had been pointless since returning to the lineup Nov. 23 following another injury earlier in the season.
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