VOORHEES, N.J. — A day after the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series, the biggest smile was on the face of James van Riemsdyk, who hasn’t played in either game. The power forward has been out of the lineup since Mar. 1 with a broken left foot when he blocked a Milan Jurchina slapshot. For the first time, he practiced with his teammates Saturday morning.
“Obviously it’s one of those things where it’s tough to jump in this time of year, but the team’s been doing a great job,” van Riemsdyk said. “I’m just doing what I can to just be positive and be a good team guy and be a good cheerleader right now. That’s all you can do and just focus on getting myself healthy and back in the lineup.”
Van Riemsdyk had to watch two of the team’s most exciting games from his couch while his teammates were working on impressive back-to-back comebacks in Pittsburgh.
“I texted him after the game and he texted me back,” Claude Giroux said. “I think he was pretty pumped. Obviously he wants to be on the ice. He wants to be able to help the team. To have him, it’s gonna be a boost for sure.”
Van Riemsdyk won’t be able to contribute on Sunday in Game 3, but he’s hoping the wait won’t be much longer. He had been sporting a huge walking boot for weeks, but has downgraded to a smaller brace that is less restrictive. Saturday morning, he skated with a skate guard on top of his left foot, which is still recovering.
“It is what it is,” van Riemsdyk said. “Obviously it’s not ideal, but you battle through it. This time of the year is exciting. You just want to be on the ice and do whatever you can to contribute. I’m just gonna go out there and leave it all on the ice every time I’m out there.”
The 22-year-old forward still has pain when he’s on the ice, and he wants to play through it, but is still trying to pace himself. Rookie center Brayden Schenn knows what that’s about. He had an injury-riddled first few months of the season, which included a broken left foot of his own in October. Now he’s been one of the best Flyers so far in the playoffs. That’s a script van Riemsdyk would like to follow, but pain will be a factor.
“He’s played more than me though, that’s the thing,” Schenn said. “I was coming back from injury and he’s been here two or three years now, so like I said, injuries are never fun to come back from, but he’s a great player. He’ll bounce back pretty quick.”
The most recent prognosis was supposed to keep van Riemsdyk out at least for at least the first round, but things are looking up now. It won’t be a Game 3 return and probably won’t even be Game 4. But for the first time, van Riemsdyk took the ice with his teammates, so he has reason to smile.