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Jr. Blues grad Vitale makes NHL debut

Joe Vitale, who played in the North American 3 Hockey League with the St. Louis Jr. Blues, made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2-1 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

Vitale, a forward, played for Jr. Blues from 2002-04, winning a national championship in 2004.

"Even then, I had scouts and coaches tell me that Joe was an NHL prospect," said Jr. Blues head coach Jack Behan.

After his junior career, Vitale, from St. Louis, played four years at Northeastern University from 2005-09 before beginning his pro career with the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh's top affiliate.

"His commitment to school – he finished high school here locally before he left for the USHL and Northeastern, where he graduated before turning pro – might not have been the path that some with his abilities would take," Behan added. "His strong family values have helped him so much in this journey."

Vitale, 25, has appeared in 50 games this season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, recording eight goals, 27 points, a plus-12 rating and two shorthanded tallies.

"Joe's a terrific person who's been rewarded for his great work ethic and determination," said Behan.