Baby Pens' Samuelsson maturing as defenseman
For much of his rookie season, defenseman Philip Samuelsson could have been described as the anchor of his defense pair because he was dragging down his partner.
The game was much faster in the pros than at Boston College, and as a result, Samuelsson sometimes struggled with his decision making.
This year, when Baby Pens coach John Hynes refers to Samuelsson as an anchor, it has an entirely different connotation.
“He's done a nice job with Joe Morrow the last few games,” Hynes said. “Phil's consistency, execution of the system, attention to detail have really helped Joe come along. That's where I see Phil continuing to progress.”
In other words, Samuelsson is the responsible stay-at-home presence who can allow a more adventurous defenseman like Morrow to take chances in the offensive zone.
Samuelsson's team-best plus-8 rating coming into this weekend indicates it's a role he's adapting to well.
“He's been one of our more reliable defensemen,” Hynes said. “I think that stat, in this particular situation, is telling.”
Samuelsson's role is also similar to the one his father Ulf played with Larry Murphy on the Penguins' championship teams in 1991-92.
Unlike some second-generation athletes, Samuelsson doesn't run from that comparison. He welcomes it.
“I love talking about it,” Samuelsson said. “It never gets old to me.”
The elder Samuelsson was perhaps the most intimidating defenseman in Penguins history. His 6-foot-2, 190-pound son tries to get the same job done a little more quietly.
“He got caught a few more times than I have,” Samuelsson said. “I think I'm a toned-down version of him. I still want to have that nastiness in my game.”
Top pick hobbled
Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins' first-round pick in last June's draft, has had a terrific season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League slowed by injury.
Pouliot hasn't played since Jan. 25 due to a lower-body injury. Coming into this weekend, he was still among the top 10 highest-scoring defensemen in the league with eight goals, 38 points and a plus-31 rating in 39 games.
Winterhawks coach Travis Green told the Portland Oregonian that Pouliot is expected to miss one to three more weeks but will definitely be back for the playoffs, which begin in the third week of March.
Are the Baby Pens preparing for life after Beau Bennett? A minor move made last week might point in that direction.
The team signed 28-year-old Boston College graduate Chris Collins to a 25-game AHL tryout contract last Monday. Collins wouldn't replace a player like Bennett — should the talented rookie get a long look on the NHL roster — but he'd help the Baby Pens stay afloat offensively without their top assist man.
Collins is a left wing who has had two solid AHL seasons — he had 22 goals for Providence in 2007-08 and 34 points for the Baby Pens in 2010-11 — to go with three years as a top scorer in the German league in his pro career.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.