BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After giving a torn muscle in his midsection nearly two full weeks to heal and another two full practices to test it, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk will return to the lineup on Wednesday night in Buffalo after missing the last 4 games.
Even with van Riemsdyk back, coach Peter Laviolette will not be able to fill out his first full healthy lineup of forwards since Oct. 26. That's because Brayden Schenn did not travel with the team to Buffalo.
Schenn's latest injury, which general manager Paul Holmgren is calling an upper-body injury, will keep him sidelined day-to-day. It also means Harry Zolnierczyk will remain in the Flyers' lineup, just a day after he appeared to be a healthy scratch.
While Jody Shelley will likely be a healthy scratch, the Flyers are unlikely to go without some sort of physical presence in the lineup. Leave that to Zac Rinaldo, who still leads the NHL with 82 penalty minutes this season. Then again, the rough stuff might not be needed against the Sabres.
This is, after all, the same Buffalo team that refused to answer the bell after Milan Lucic ran over star goaltender Ryan Miller on Nov. 12. No melee ensued - much to the chagrin of coach Lindy Ruff - after Lucic hit Miller, which knocked off his mask and concussed him with a hit that kept him out of the lineup until last Saturday.
Miller picked up a 3-2 win over Nashville on the road on Saturday. The Flyers pounced on Miller early on Nov. 3, chasing him from the game after they scored 3 goals in the first 6 minutes, 23 seconds. They hung on for the 3-2 win in that game after a helter-skelter third period.
Here are the Flyers' projected lines:
Hartnell — Giroux — Jagr
Simmonds — Briere — Read
Van Riemsdyk — Couturier — Voracek
Zolnierczyk — Talbot — Rinaldo
Timonen — Coburn
Carle — Bourdon
Marshall — Meszaros
Scratches: Jody Shelley
Injury list: Brayden Schenn, Chris Pronger, Andreas Lilja, Erik Gustafsson
LIGHTS ON, LEINO? Last time we were in Buffalo, we connected with former Flyer Ville Leino and documented his early-season struggles with the Sabres. It looks like they continued in November, where he collected just 4 points in 13 games last month. Overall, he had just 6 points in his first 24 games.
But could Leino be turning the corner? He has 3 points in his last 2 games, finally able to string together his first point streak of the season.
RATINGS UP: According to a release from the NHL, the Flyers' local television ratings on Comcast SportsNet are up 60 percent compared to last season.
That's actually the league's fifth-best ratings increase from last season. Nashville (+200%), Carolina (+125%), Florida (+100%) and Tampa Bay (+71%) are all ahead of the Flyers in that category.
ALL-STAR UPDATE: Claude Giroux gained more than 47,000 votes over the past 7 days on the 2012 NHL All-Star ballot, but he remained 7th among all forwards for Tuesday's weekly update.
The Flyers have had 3 days off, but Giroux entered Sunday's action tied for the league lead in points with Toronto's Phil Kessel, who leads the All-Star voting.
Giroux's linemate, Jaromir Jagr, is just about 46,000 votes behind him.
Injured defenseman Chris Pronger (12th) and Kimmo Timonen (13th) have both tumbled a bit in the voting for defensemen. Ilya Bryzgalov remains 7th among goaltenders.
This year's All-Star Game, which would be Giroux's second in a row, would likely mean a little bit more to him since it will be played in Ottawa, where much of his family and friends now reside after moving from Hearst, Ontario. Giroux also maintains his offseason residence in Gatineau, Quebec, which is just across the river from downtown Ottawa.
CYBER MONDAY SUCCESS: So, how much did the Flyers dominate among the NHL.com shop sales with all of the deals on Cyber Monday? Six of the Top 10 items sold were tied to the Flyers, mostly through the Winter Classic. Here's a list:
1. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Reversible Knit Hat
2. CCM 2012 NHL Winter Classic Dueling Event T-shirt
3. Reebok Boston Bruins Premier Home Jersey
4. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Premier Jersey
5. HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the 2011 NHL Winter Classic DVD
6. Reebok New York Rangers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Reversible Knit Hat
7. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Tassle Knit Hat
8. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Claude Giroux Premier Jersey
9. CCM Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Thermal
10. Reebok New York Rangers 2012 NHL Winter Classic T-shirt
WINTER CLASSIC SPOT: The NHL partnered with NBC Sports to produce a new ad campaign for Jan. 2's Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. Here is one of the spots you're likely to see ad nauseum until the game.
The "Rivalry" TV spot features iconic landmarks in Philadelphia (Liberty Bell, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the LOVE Park) and New York City (Times Square and the Empire State Building). Flyers players Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot and James van Riemsdyk and Rangers players Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Marian Gaborik, Ryan McDonagh, Brandon Prust and Derek Stepan are also featured in the spot. Adding a unique touch to the spot is an original arrangement of the New Year's classic, Auld Lang Syne, performed by Alex Skolnick, lead guitarist of Testament and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
We'll be back with the other new Winter Classic spot tomorrow.