Father vs. son on Wednesday vs. Pens

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
2:26
PM ET
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- There won’t be quite the same level of enmity between the Rangers and Penguins benches Wednesday night.

At least not as far as Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson is concerned.

Samuelsson did some scouting of the Penguins-Maple Leafs game Monday night at Consol Energy Center, but he wasn’t there in a coaching capacity but rather as a proud father.

He flew in for Monday’s match for Samuelsson’s son Philip’s NHL debut. Philip, a 22-year-old defenseman, was recently recalled from the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in wake of Pittsburgh’s crippling list of injuries to its back end.

The young blueliner played 15:43 in the Penguins' fourth consecutive win -- a 3-1 victory over Toronto.

“He’s a modernized version of what I was,” Ulf Samuelsson said. “He’s a modern-day, good defenseman, but I think he’s a better passer than I was.”

While watching his son make his professional debut, he took note of the Rangers' next opponent, a club that has rattled off nine wins in the last 10 games despite an alarming amount of man games lost.

The Penguins are currently without their top four defensemen -- Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang -- and 10 regular players total. That includes Evgeni Malkin, who has a lower-body injury, and James Neal, who is serving a five-game suspension.

His observations?

“Their big boys played big,” coach Alain Vigneault recalled of Samuelsson’s scouting report.

Amid the ridiculous rash of injuries, superstar Sidney Crosby’s line of Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis has remained intact.

Crosby notched the game winner in Monday’s match and leads the NHL in scoring with 47 points.

“You still have the world’s best player on the ice,” said center Derick Brassard of the challenge Wednesday. “We’re not saying ‘Oh, they’re missing those guys.’”

The Rangers recently snapped a four-game losing streak with Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win against the Calgary Flames. The Blueshirts are in 10th place in the East, 16 points behind the conference-leading Penguins.

“We’re not in a situation where we can take teams easily,” Brassard said.

Vigneault said the Penguins' winning streak is evidence that this is not a club to be taken lightly.

“It tells me that they’ve got a lot of depth on that team,” he said.

Even if “that team” looks more and more like the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins each day.

Philip’s promotion offers a unique father-son element to what was already an intriguing matchup. Ulf Samuelsson admitted he was a little nervous watching his son play Monday night.

He might give an occasional glimpse down the Penguins’ bench Wednesday, but that’s it.

“Nerves are something you’re used to in our business,” Samuelsson said. "That’s something you can put to the side.”
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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