Sunday, July 13, 2014

Defensive shuffle offers opportunities for many

February 16. 2013 3:32AM
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When defensemen Simon Despres and Brian Strait were called up to Pittsburgh on Monday, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Phil Samuelsson said it was good for everybody.

Another chance to play in the NHL obviously made the move good for Despres and Strait, and just having another chance to play made it good for Samuelsson and fellow blueliner Cody Wild, both of whom have played sparingly in recent months.

After Tuesday's practice at Coal Street, head coach John Hynes said Samuelsson and Wild would likely suit up if Despres and Strait don't return from Pittsburgh before this weekend's games.

Samuelsson last played for the Penguins on March 18 and has appeared in only for games total in February in March for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Wild has appeared in three games in March and last played March 18.

"It's been a little while since I've been in," Samuelsson said. "I had a good start to the season, but pro hockey is more of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately thing. I just want to get back in and play."

Being in and out of the lineup is nothing new to Wild. He said he's done it for the last few seasons in the AHL and he's certainly ready if he gets the call this weekend.

The most important thing, he said, is to continue to work hard in practice so he's ready to play.

"You never know when you're going to go in. I had that role all season and I don't change anything," Wild said. "At first it's tough, but I've done it for a while now and you get used to it. You prepare the same way to be ready."

Such an approach has paid off for Wild this season, who sometimes didn't know he was playing until shortly before the start of a game.

"I had games earlier this year when I knew I wasn't playing. I'd skate in the morning and then all of a sudden somebody gets called up and three hours before the game they tell me I'm playing," he said. "You always have to be ready."

Both players have played well despite the uncertain ice time. Wild is plus-6 in 45 games this season – the first time his plus-minus rating is on the positive side in his five-year AHL career.

Samuelsson has played in 42 games in his rookie season and has eight points to go along with a plus-3 rating.

"This is my first year and I was expecting a learning curve. With everyone healthy this is a tough D corps to crack," Samuelsson said. "But it's not fun to sit on the side. I just want to take any chance I get and play well and contribute to the team."


• The status of injured defenseman Carl Sneep should be known today, Hynes said. Sneep hasn't played since March 17 and if he is healthy enough to return, the Penguins would have seven defensemen while Despres and Strait are in Pittsburgh. If Sneep isn't healed, Hynes said a call-up from Wheeling is possible.

• With Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson on the mend, Hynes said it's possible that Brad Thiessen could return to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this week.

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