Mike Johnston had some interesting comments following last night’s 2-0 win in calling Daniel Sprong a “junior” player and then saying there’s a “mandate” to play young defensemen.

“I really think he’s [Daniel Sprong] going to be a good player for this organization. But I’ve dealt with junior players before and I still consider him a junior player and those players have to learn habits away from puck and responsibilities so the coach trusts him,” Johnston said Thursday night about Sprong.

Johnston today back-pedaled on that comment. [hide]

“I could have said a younger player, an 18 year old player,” said Johnston. “I mentioned junior [player] because I’ve had experience with junior players and those are some of the things you see in junior players,” Johnston said.

The chatter is all over the place on Sprong as one rumor making the rounds is Mike Johnston’s recommendation to management is Sprong will still benefit from another year in junior as there’s concerns from the staff with Sprong when the games really start picking up 25-30 games from now.

Despite Sprong clearly showing he belongs, it’s still 50-50 whether he stays.

Johnston also today said he doesn’t plan to use Sprong in the top-6 anytime soon.

“Not right now,” Johnston said.

— What did Johnston mean yesterday with his “mandate” comment?

“Our mandate is to try to bring in some young defensemen and try to get them ingrained in our system,” Johnston said Thursday night of sitting Rob Scuderi who is loved by Gary Agnew and playing Adam Clendening.

Jim Rutherford’s influence on roster decisions is no secret right now.

Johnston today played the company line in saying the Penguins have lost some defensemen the last couple years when explaining his mandate comment of playing the young D.

“If you look at the strength of our group, the depth of our group, when I came into the organization anyway, I thought we had a lot of good young up-and-coming defensemen,” Johnston said. “There is a time when you play them in the minors, you develop them, you’re working with them, but now they have to become NHL defensemen. How do you do that? You have to start to transition them in giving them an opportunity is part of that.”

That reality is NHL coaches hate playing young D.[/hide]