James van Riemsdyk has regained his scoring touch at a perfect time for the Flyers.
With left wingers Oskar Lindblom (Ewing’s sarcoma) and Scott Laughton (groin injury) sidelined, the Flyers needed someone to step to the forefront. And van Riemsdyk, who struggled in the first two months of the season, has been that player.
After being demoted to the fourth line for nine games, van Riemsdyk has moved up in the lineup and scored six goals over his last five games.
“Any time you bring a bunch of new players in and you have a new coaching staff, they’re trying to figure out the best way to use all the puzzle pieces,” the 30-year-old left winger said after scoring two goals in his second straight game, sparking Saturday’s 5-4 shootout win in Ottawa. “And you’re trying to figure out what their expectations are for you and the different things they want to see from you.”
No longer is he in coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse. Van Riemsdyk’s recent surge has made him the Flyers’ top goal scorer with 12.
“You’d like it to be seamless … but sometimes it’s a process, and I’d like to think I’ve gotten better and better as the year has gone on,” van Riemsdyk said.
The Central Jersey native moved to the third line for three games after Lindblom’s illness was discovered, then was placed on the second line, centered by Kevin Hayes, for three games after Laughton was injured.
All told, he has eight goals over his last 11 games. Some of the goals were the result of fortuitous bounces, helping to make up for the bad luck he had earlier in the season when goalies made a slew of impressive saves on his golden scoring chances.
“Sometimes, that’s just how it goes,” said van Riemsdyk, whose team hosts the New York Rangers on Monday. “When you throw it at the net and you’re at the net, you get some good bounces. I’m just trying to do my thing and I think our line’s been really playing well. We complement each other with our different styles.”
In the last three games, van Riemsdyk has been on a line with Hayes and rookie right winger Nic Aube-Kubel. Hayes is a 200-foot player who is strong at both ends of the ice. Aube-Kubel is a straight-line player who supplies tough, hard-nosed play, and he had 6 hits, 5 shot attempts, 3 blocked shots, and an assist against Ottawa.
“In the last month, he’s skating much better,” Vigneault said about van Riemsdyk, “and that skating has permitted him to get real good opportunities. Our fourth goal [Saturday] was him using his speed and getting behind the D.”
With van Riemsdyk leading the way, the Flyers have scored a total of 14 goals over their last three games.
The Flyers, winners of three straight overall, are 12-2-4 at the Wells Fargo Center. On Monday, they will face a Rangers team that ended a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 5-1 win over Anaheim.
Rookie right winger Joel Farabee (11 points in 27 games) will return from a three-game suspension Monday. … The Flyers are hoping to get Matt Niskanen back in the lineup Monday after he missed Saturday’s game with the flu. “He’s been one of our most consistent defensemen, no doubt,” Vigneault said. … Carter Hart (2.33 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) is expected to face the Rangers. Hart is 10-1-2 with 1.53 GAA and .944 save percentage at home this season … To keep Lindblom in their thoughts, the Flyers are wearing Oskar Strong T-shirts under their jerseys the rest of the season. Six Rangers will also do that on Monday, a movement started by the Blueshirts’ Mika Zibanejad, who, like Lindblom, is from Sweden. The Minnesota Wild players are also ordering the Oskar Strong shirts from biscuittees.com, which has donated over $100,000 to the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative thanks to the sale of the Lindblom shirts. Yes, the hockey community is a tightknit group. ... Heading into Sunday, Phil Myers led NHL rookies -- and was tied for eighth in the NHL -- with a plus-17 rating.