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Mullen now on rival Phantoms’ bench

Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach latched on as an assistant in Philadelphia.

Mullen

By the time his phone finally rang with the offer of an assistant coaching position with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Joey Mullen had resigned himself to the fact that he would probably have to sit out the entire 2006-07 season.

It wasn’t a particularly easy pill for Mullen to swallow.

Mullen, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and NHL Hall of Famer, found himself out of a job last June when Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero opted not to renew his contract as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s head coach.

This, despite Mullen being the winningest coach in franchise history – his .615 winning percentage just slightly better than Michel Therrien’s .613 – and that Mullen guided the team to its only division championship.

But losing his job in Wilkes-Barre wasn’t a big surprise. Mullen figured that a new GM would want his own people in place.

The real shock was that no one else wanted him.

“I was probably more disappointed (than surprised),” Mullen said Thursday when reached by phone in Philadelphia. “But you know, when any job opens up, there are hundreds of applicants, and in the business world it’s as much who you know as it is what you know.”

Indeed, it was Mullen’s connections that allowed him to land in Philadelphia.

When the Flyers replaced head coach Ken Hitchcock with assistant John Stevens, Stevens wanted Phantoms head coach Craig Berube on his staff. Berube was replaced behind the Phantoms’ bench by his assistant, Kjell Samuelsson.

Needing an assistant on the AHL staff, Samuelsson suggested Mullen, who was his teammate in Pittsburgh from 1991 to 1995.

“We’re pretty good friends,” Mullen said of his relationship with Samuelsson. “We get along well. I’m very excited about the opportunity.”

Mullen, who went 28-16-3-5 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after taking over for Michel Therrien in midseason, said he has no problem serving under Samuelsson as an assistant. He’d held a similar position in Pittsburgh from 2000 until taking over the AHL Penguins last December.

He said it will be strange to look across the ice at the visitors’ bench and see his old team.

“Yeah,” Mullen said. “Especially the first game. It’ll probably be a little emotional.”

Sestito sent down

The Edmonton Oilers reassigned forward Tim Sestito to ECHL Stockton on Friday.

Sestito played in four games for the Penguins, going scoreless with a minus-three rating.

To take his place on the roster, the Penguins recalled forward Tim Wallace from ECHL Wheeling. Wallace, who made the AHL roster after coming to camp as a tryout, had two points in five games for the Nailers.

Up next

Penguins (8-1-0-0) at

Philadelphia (3-5-1-0)

When: 7:05 p.m., today

Where: Wachovia Spectrum.

On the air: Radio – WQFM 92.1 and 100.5 (pregame starts at 6:40 p.m.)

On the Web: www.b2livetv.com.

Last meeting: Penguins 4, Philadelphia 3, OT (April 15, 2005).

Penguins vs. Phantoms (last season): Penguins won season series 8-1-1-0.

Scouting the Phantoms: The Phantoms have faced more than their fair share of adversity this season as a result of the coaching shakeup in Philly and the Flyers’ awful start. No one on the current roster has more than two goals. Marty Murray leads the team in scoring with 10 points. Philly also has used three goalies regularly, with Scott Munroe (0-3-0, 4.20, .866) seeing the most minutes in net.

Keep an eye on: For the Penguins – D Wade Skolney, who played 215 games in a Phantoms’ uniform, returns to Philly for the first time since signing with the Penguins as a free agent in the offseason. For the Phantoms – Former Pittsburgh Penguin Petr Nedved, just 52 games shy of his 1,000th career NHL game, has been banished to the minors as a result of the Flyers’ disastrous start.

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