JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK said he would be crazy to not want to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Whether or not van Riemsdyk actually makes his first playoff appearance of the year on Friday night in Pittsburgh remains to be seen, but he said after skating on Thursday that the decision was out of his hands.
"It's always a fun time of year to play and it sucks watching from the sidelines," van Riemsdyk said. "This is the time of year, no matter what, when your number is called, you suck it up and deal with [the pain]."
Van Riemsdyk, 22, has not played since March 1, sitting out for the last 23 straight games after surgery was required to repair a broken bone in his left foot. He has been skating for a little more than a week; Thursday was his fourth consecutive day on the ice.
Coach Peter Laviolette said he would not hesitate to make a lineup change if he thought JVR was healthy enough to play. Van Riemsdyk skated alongside Matt Read and Jake Voracek on Thursday.
"I think lineup changes are made all the time, constantly," Laviolette said. "I thought James looked good. It was just a 20-minute skate. He's looking better every day. I think at some point, we will make that decision.
"Through discussions with everyone involved, when he's ready to play, we'll consider playing him."
A return for JVR would at least try to counterbalance the boost Pittsburgh will receive from forwards James Neal and Craig Adams coming back from Game 4 suspensions.
Zac Rinaldo, who has more penalty minutes (46) than minutes played (19:44) this series, and rookie Eric Wellwood would be candidates pulled to make room for van Riemsdyk. Phantoms leading scorer Matt Ford (59 points) also joined the Flyers in practice yesterday as an extra and traveled with the team to Pittsburgh.
It was this time last spring when van Riemsdyk's burgeoning talent was on full display. He led the Flyers with seven goals in 11 playoff games, earning himself a rich, 6-year, $25.5 million contract extension in the offseason.
This year, van Riemsdyk has struggled through multiple injuries - concussion (15 games), abdominal tear (4), broken foot (23) - to post just 11 goals and 13 assists in 42 games. But he's ready to finally turn those numbers around.
"I've always prided myself, growing up, in playing in these pressure-type games," van Riemsdyk said. "Last year, I was given an opportunity to play a lot and I just ran with it."
Defenseman Nick Grossmann missed practice on Thursday, lending to speculation that he will be unable to play in Game 5 on Friday night because of an undisclosed, upper-body injury.
NBC 10's Howard Eskin first reported that Grossmann suffered a concussion, presumably from a late elbow to the head by Evgeni Malkin during the second period on Wednesday. Grossmann left the game midway through the second period and did not return.
If Grossmann is unavailable, the Flyers' options for replacements are limitless. They recalled veteran Oskars Bartulis through waivers on Thursday, making him a possible target. Bartulis, 25, has 66 NHL games under his belt but has spent most of the last two seasons with the Phantoms. He played seven playoff games in 2010, including in the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago.
Bartulis can clear waivers as soon as noon on Friday. He played the final 2 weeks of Adirondack's season after missing 22 games with an upper-body injury.
Rookie defensemen Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson also joined the Flyers in practice on Thursday and traveled with the team to Pittsburgh. Those two players have a combined 36 games of experience and no playoff appearances.
Forward Zac Rinaldo was curt when asked about his hits on Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek in Game 4, which warranted him a game misconduct.
Rinaldo cross-checked Michalek and then shoved him to the ice in front of the referee when he was trying to stand up. The NHL's overwhelmed Department of Player Safety reviewed the play and determined the hits were not worthy of supplementary discipline.
"I don't regret doing it. I play with my emotions," Rinaldo said. "I don't think I put my team down. It was already 9-3 when I went out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I was really frustrated that we were getting blown out of the water, so I took matters into my own hands."
The NHL's Calder Trophy finalists will be announced on Friday for Rookie of the Year. Matt Read and/or Sean Couturier could be a part of the mix . . . Game 5 marks the Flyers' fifth game in Consol Energy Center since April 1 . . . The Flyers are 11 goals short of setting a team record for most goals in a series. They are 11 goals shy of setting a new franchise record for most combined goals in a series . . . Ron Hextall's son, Brett, was recalled by Phoenix on Thursday to join their practice squad. Brett Hextall, a University of North Dakota product, can become just the NHL's second, fourth-generation player when he plays a game . . . Bensalem native Ryan Gunderson helped Brynas to its first Swedish Elite League title since 1999 with a goal in the series-clinching game on Thursday night. The crafty defenseman, who attended Holy Ghost Prep and the University of Vermont, led all defensemen in scoring in the Swedish league this season.