(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
Following Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees, the Philadelphia Flyers are ready to have one of their top pieces and biggest acquisition in free agency back on Thursday night. James van Riemsdyk appears set to return against the New Jersey Devils.
After only playing two games, and missing the last 16 due to a lower-body injury, van Riemsdyk is set to make his return in a vital game for Philadelphia. Despite winning three straight, the Flyers were not able to come back against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss at the Wells Fargo Center. Thursday’s game will be the fourth in the five-game homestand, which concludes on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Orange and Black need to find a way to rebound from the loss against Florida and get another win streak started. With the way October went, the Flyers cannot afford to start going down the wrong path again.
On Tuesday, JVR noted that you just "have to put trust" in the injury-rehab process "so it's not something that's lingering all year long."
"That's not the way you draw it up when you're thinking of coming back," van Riemsdyk said. "But it is what it is. These sort of things happen. They're part of the game, and unfortunately it was a fluky thing. It's not one of those things where I can look back and say, 'Oh, if I prepared a little better, or did this a little differently, then maybe this wouldn't have happened.' I pride myself on taking really good care of myself and putting myself in a good position to succeed."
"Coming into the year, he was a guy we felt was going to be a big part for us," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's unfortunate he went out early with the injury, but no question we're looking forward to getting him back into the mix and getting his abilities and his veteran presence back into our lineup."
Now the question that remains is where will he go back into the lineup?
During Monday’s practice, the New Jersey native skated with Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick, however the way that the young stars have been playing with Jake Voracek, it would not be very wise of Hakstol to break up that line now.
A more realistic possibility is that van Riemsdyk will be on the third line with Wayne Simmonds, and Jordan Weal, a line he skated on in Wednesday's practice. Dale Weise appears to be bumped down to the fourth line centered by Scott Laughton with Nicholas Aube-Kubel on the wing. Jori Lehtera was the extra forward.
JVR was already back practicing on the top power-play unit during Wednesday’s practice, as he was parked in his typical spot in front of the net. The Flyers power play is in a 2-for-28 funk and JVR's presence there is sure to make an impact for a special teams group that has too much star power to be struggling this much.
Regardless of where JVR plays during Thursday’s rivalry matchup against the struggling Devils, it will be good to see No. 25 back on the ice wearing the Flyers crest once more.