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Son of former Pens forward Samuelsson knows his niche

| Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

Defenseman Philip Samuelsson, son of Ulf, is the most well-known second-generation Penguin playing in Wilkes-Barre these days, but he's not the only one.

Brandon DeFazio, a rookie winger out of Clarkson University, is the son of Dean DeFazio, a forward who played 22 games for the Penguins in 1983-84, the season before the team drafted Mario Lemieux.

"He always says Mario took his job. That's his joke around the house," the younger DeFazio said.

Dean DeFazio was a scorer in juniors who was known more for the grittier side of his game the higher he climbed the hockey ladder. Brandon DeFazio is following the same path.

Clarkson's leading scorer last season, DeFazio has decent puck skills, but he knows his ticket to the NHL, should he get there, will be fast and physical fourth-line play.

"In pro, you find your niche, and you go to it and do it every game," DeFazio said.

Back in action

Defenseman Brian Strait, out since suffering a hyperextended elbow Oct. 18, returned to the Baby Pens lineup Monday in a 2-1 loss to the Albany Devils.

"I went through a game and felt OK and came out healthy still. Mindset-wise, it was good that way," Strait said. "My arm isn't made of glass. It's not just going to fall apart."

There's never a good time for an injury, but Strait's timing was especially bad. If he had been healthy as the Penguins went through a series of defensive injuries over the past two months, he probably would have run his career total of NHL games from four to close to 30.

"That's just how it goes," Strait said. "It's injuries. It's hockey. You have to roll with the punches."

Rare loss

Monday's game was the first loss for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against a New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate in more than six years. The Baby Pens beat the Baby Devils 18 straight times after a 2-1 loss April 1, 2005.

Back in action II

Boris Valabik, the massive, 6-foot-7, 245-pound defenseman signed by the Penguins in July, made his Baby Pens debut Dec. 17 after recovering from offseason knee surgery. He is minus-3 in his first two games.

"He's got to get in game shape and get some timing down, but I think he's done a good job for not having played in a long time," coach John Hynes said. "He understands the concepts we want to play with. I think he's on the road to recovery."

Underdog story

The Penguins selected Joe Morrow 21 picks before they took Scott Harrington in last June's NHL draft. Morrow is faster, flashier and puts up more points.

Yet when the time came to name Canada's final roster for the World Junior Championships, coach Don Hay kept Harrington and cut Morrow, citing the former's consistent play in his own end.

The decision didn't come as a surprise to Harrington's junior coach with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights.

"Too much heart, too much will, too much everything," Mark Hunter told the London Free Press. "I tell pro scouts he's just like Dan Girardi."

The tournament begins tomorrow in Calgary and Edmonton.

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 jbombulie.

Additional Information:

One to watch

Ben Street

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) -- Center

5-foot-11, 185 pounds

How acquired: College free agent out of the University of Wisconsin

How he's doing: A second-year pro playing on an AHL contract, Street has become the Baby Pens' most consistent scoring-line center. He scored goals in four straight games heading into a week-long Christmas break, moving into second on the team with 22 points in 26 games, three points behind winger Colin McDonald. A heady player with a good shot, Street's game is reminiscent of Mark Letestu's in the way the puck seems to follow him around.

Why he might make it to the NHL: Coaches like smart, versatile players who can shoot the puck.

Why he might not: He's not big or exceptionally fast, and he's already 24 years old.

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