Philip Samuelsson was sitting on his couch watching television on a Sunday morning when he got a call he’ll remember forever.
That’s where Samuelsson was when he found out he was being call up to Pittsburgh, marking the first NHL experience for the third year pro.
“It was a call I wasn’t really expectiing,” Samuelsson said after Thursday’s practice at the Mohegan Sun Arena. “I called my sister first and told her right away.”
But that didn’t mean other family members wouldn’t soon share in the experience.
Before Samuelsson was reassigned by Pittsburgh on Tuesday, he appeared in five games with the big club. The second was against the New York Rangers, for whom Samuelsson’s father, Ulf, is an assistant coach.
While the elder Samuelsson was behind the bench, Philip’s mother attended the game and watched her son from the stands.
“Both of my parents have helped me tremendously in my career and it was awesome they could share that moment with me,” he said.
While Samuelsson said the call-up was unexpected, his development over the last two-plus seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton makes his rise to the NHL make perfect sense. Last season, Samuelsson led the Penguins with a plus-10 and appeared in 65 games, proving his worth as a capable shutdown defenseman.
This year, as he has been paired primarily with Simon Despres until he was called up as well, Samuelsson has once again thrived in the shutdown role.
Now that he has a bit of NHL experience under his belt, Samuelsson has the confidence in knowing thta he has what it takes to play in the big time.
“It was a dream come true to be up there,” Samuelsson said. “I’ve proven to myself and the organization that I can play at that level. Now it’s up to me to play well here and get back there.”
• Winger Harry Zolnierczyk, who was reassigned by Pittsburgh earlier this week, was not at Thursday’s practice due to a travel day.
• On the injury front, head coach John Hynes said D Peter Merth and C Adam Payerl are out for this weekend. D Reid McNeill practiced Thursday and Hynes said there’s a good possibility he will play.
• After a four-day Christmas break, Hynes said his players cam back to the rink noticably refreshed. “Anytime they can shut hockey off for a few days and get away from it is good,” he said. “They certainly had a lot of jump.”
• While many players had to travel back to Wilkes-Barre at the end of the break, they will get a break from the road tonight as the Penguins stay home to host the Norfolk Admirals. Hynes said being able to stay home for a couple days was nice, but he wasn’t sure how much of a benefit it would be.
“It’s nice to come back to your own rink, your own locker room and spend a little more time in the weight room and at practice,” he said. “Whether it’s a benefit depends on how we play.”