RALEIGH, N.C. - While serving the final game of his three-game suspension, Danny Briere was joined in the press box last Saturday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum by an unlikely teammate: James van Riemsdyk.
That night, van Riemsdyk was left out of the lineup by coach Peter Laviolette as a healthy scratch, in hopes to snap the talented 21-year-old out of his sophomore slump.
It was the first time that van Riemsdyk had ever been a healthy scratch in the regular season. He was scratched just once as a rookie, for one game in the Stanley Cup finals.
"We were sitting there and he told me, 'Just as quick as you come out, you can go back in,' " van Riemsdyk recalled from the conversation. "Things can change quickly."
That advice is what is keeping van Riemsdyk's chin up, as he sat out for a third consecutive game last night against the Hurricanes.
Van Riemsdyk skated for a full 45 minutes after his teammates left the ice yesterday at their morning skate. He is mired in his second-worst scoring slump since joining the NHL, not picking up a single goal in the Flyers' first 13 games.
He went through 14-game (Mar. 3-Mar. 27), 12-game (Nov. 20-Dec. 12) and 10-game (Dec. 15-Jan. 3) slumps without a goal last season after starting with 18 points in his first 16 NHL games.
Van Riemsdyk started this season with three assists in the first four games but has just one point since Oct. 14.
Simply put: The Flyers were getting more production out of Dan Carcillo, Andreas Nodl and Nik Zherdev, three other players who have been healthy scratches this season.
"Sometimes it's as lucky as a puck hitting you in front of the net and going in," van Riemsdyk said. "I'd like to get some more bounces. I can be a little stronger on the puck in the offensive zone. I haven't really given up much defensively. But I've been playing the game my whole life, so I know what I need to do to be successful."
Van Riemsdyk said he wasn't worried by the surprising play of Eric Wellwood, who impressed the coaching staff with strong play in his first three NHL games. Wellwood was eventually loaned back to Adirondack, though there was some initial organizational discussion that it could have been van Riemsdyk heading back to the AHL for some seasoning.
"When James gets back in there, you hope that it burns him a little bit to have to come out of the lineup," Laviolette said on Monday. "[You hope] he comes back with that revitalized energy like [Zherdev] did, and make it a point to show that he shouldn't have come out of the lineup and shouldn't come out anymore, and doesn't let that happen again.
"There's tough decisions that have to be made. When he gets that opportunity, you really want to go in there and make sure you make it a point to let everybody know that's not going to happen [again]."
Briere told van Riemsdyk, nicknamed "Reemer" and "JVR," that he should take whatever the coaching staff does with a positive attitude.
"I'm not going to pout about it," van Riemsdyk said. "You don't get to this point by being a baby about things like this and not reacting to it the right way. I'm working hard in practice, I'm working hard off the ice. My approach isn't going to change one bit."
Coming out of training camp, van Riemsdyk seemed poised to take the next step in his career. His sluggish start has been nothing short of shocking, especially considering his strong preseason (three points in six games) and intense offseason training ritual.
Now, he will sit and wait for another opportunity.
"I know I can still help the team," van Riemsdyk said. "I'm just looking for a chance to come back in." *