Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson could face son Philip when Penguins visit MSG

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Philip Samuelsson skates during his The Pittsburgh Penguins' Philip Samuelsson skates during his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center. (Dec. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Defenseman Philip Samuelsson was 9 years old when his father, Ulf, retired after nearly 1,100 NHL games, a career that included winning two Stanley Cups with the Penguins and skating four seasons with the Rangers.

While his father played for the Rangers from 1995 through 1999, Philip sometimes skated at the Blueshirts' practice rink. "I think he still does remember," Ulf said Tuesday. "I have some pictures and good memories of him in Rangers jerseys."

But Philip was drafted by the Penguins in 2009, and the 22-year-old defenseman is expected to face the Rangers (16-17-1) Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, where Ulf, an assistant coach, will be behind the home bench.

With four of the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins defensemen sidelined, Philip was summoned from AHL Wilkes-Barre, and with Ulf in attendance, made his NHL debut in a 3-1 defeat of Toronto on Monday.

"We arrived a little late and walked into Mario's box [Penguins owner Mario Lemieux] and all of a sudden I see Philip step on the ice," Ulf said. "It was a pretty cool feeling watching him get a few strides in. I think the first and second shifts he was playing behind [Sidney] Crosby."

The elder Samuelsson, who had a reputation as a nasty blueliner often accused of dirty play, described his son, who is taller and heavier, as "a modernized version of what I was . . . a good defender, but I think he's a better passer. Obviously, you defend with different methods nowadays than when I played. You've got to be a lot better on your skates and mobile and quick."

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Samuelsson, 49, recalled struggling when he first reported to the Hartford Whalers in the 1984-85 season. "I played 10 games and was sent down to Binghamton. The biggest surprise for me, coming from Sweden, was how good and how fast the players were, and the smaller ice surface."

Asked if he'll be nervous Wednesday night, Ulf Samuelsson laughed. "You're used to nerves in this business. I coached [him] in Sweden, I think that's worse, so I think I've gone through the hard part. You're pretty busy [during games], but I'm sure I'll throw the odd glimpse on the ice if he's playing."

Notes & quotes: Henrik Lundqvist will start his seventh straight game, a season high . . . With four games in six nights, rookie defenseman Dylan McIlrath won't be returned to the AHL before Christmas . . . Alain Vigneault is likely to employ three defense pairs after dressing seven defensemen against the Flames . . . Asked if his team was more relaxed after the 4-3 OT win over Calgary, Vigneault referred to the team's holiday party on Monday: "They were pretty relaxed when they heard Glen [Sather] do his Santa Claus imitation."

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