NEW YORK -- As Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Philip Samuelsson participated in practice prior to his second NHL game Wednesday against the New York Rangers, there was a familiar face watching from up in the stands at Madison Square Garden.
It was Samuelsson's father, Ulf, who as New York's assistant coach was scouting the competition but also enjoying the sight of his son practicing with an NHL team.
So which role was the longtime player and current coach spending more time serving: proud papa or NHL coach?
"You tell me," Ulf Samuelsson told NHL.com. "[It will be the] same thing tonight. I've got to work and be a fan at the same time."
It will be a uniquely special evening in New York when the Samuelsson family comes together for this matchup. Loyalties weren't divided Monday night when Philip made his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center. Ulf Samuelsson watched the game as a guest in the suite of his former teammate, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux. Ulf's wife Jeanette, daughter Victoria and son Adam were in attendance.
Samuelsson may be a member of the Rangers coaching staff, but he admits it was special to watch his son play for the Penguins. The elder Samuelsson played slightly more than four seasons and won the Stanley Cup twice with Pittsburgh from 1990-95.
"I've had a special place in my heart for the Penguins to start off with," Samuelsson said. "This makes it even more special."
That sentiment won't be quite as strong Wednesday when father and son go head to head. Still, Ulf Samuelsson couldn't help but offer his son some helpful advice before the game.
"Play good, but don't win the game," he said.
For Philip Samuelsson, it's the culmination of a lifelong dream that started with him watching his father play parts of 17 NHL seasons before transitioning into coaching. The younger Samuelsson was selected by Pittsburgh in the second round (No. 61) of the 2009 NHL Draft and played two seasons at Boston College before spending the past two seasons with the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. When All-Star defenseman Kris Letang was placed on injured reserve Monday with an upper-body injury, Samuelsson got the call.
He admits his first NHL game was a surreal moment, but going against dad in game No. 2 might even be more unbelievable.
"He probably knows me better than anyone else. He'll probably be able to give their guys a pretty good indication of what I can do," said Samuelsson, who joked about how he might get the better of his old man. "I think in the second period I'll try to get him with a water bottle squirt."
Samuelsson's family will be in attendance Wednesday, although younger brother Henrik Samuelsson, a first-round pick (No. 27) of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2012 draft, again will not be there. But he's a got a pretty good excuse.
A forward with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, Henrik is competing for a spot with the United States at the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship. As Ulf Samuelsson watched his oldest son practice, he received a phone call from Henrik, his second-oldest.
"I just talked to him. He's heading overseas right now," Ulf Samuelsson said. "Everyone knows the level of that tournament is as good as it will ever get, so he's really hoping to make that team. They've got a couple more cuts to make, but he's working hard."
It's just the latest for a hockey family that has been making plenty of news lately. A dual citizen like the rest of her siblings, Victoria Samuelsson is competing for a spot on the Swedish women's Olympic team at 17 years old. Youngest son Adam, 14, is playing with a Tier 1 team in Connecticut.
So it appears the family has plenty going on this holiday season. It's a schedule Ulf Samuelsson has grown accustomed to.
"It's always been messed up. It started when I was a young player with my family," he said. "We're on the hockey calendar, not the normal calendar."
Henrik Samuelsson's World Junior responsibilities may have kept him from attending the big Samuelsson family faceoff at Madison Square Garden, but he hesitated only slightly before guessing who his mother would be rooting for Wednesday night.
"I guess my brother would be her pick," he said.