Schenn, van Riemsdyk set to face former teams

Monday, 02.11.2013 / 12:45 PM
Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers believed one of their big offseason needs was a physical, shot-blocking presence on defense. The Toronto Maple Leafs thought they were in need of more goal-scoring.

With one trade, both appeared to find just what they were looking for, with the Flyers sending forward James van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn on June 23, 2012.

Monday in Toronto, each player will get his first chance to face his former teammates when the Flyers make their first visit to the Air Canada Centre.

It's a night both players admit to looking forward to since the schedule for the 2012-13 was announced.

"When the schedule came out, with this being the first game out, it's something you look forward to," Schenn said. "One that you definitely look for on the calendar is the return to Toronto. I think both teams have obviously moved on and they’re both having success, too, and we are starting to, too. There is no question that I look forward to going back there."

"I've been thinking about that basically since the season started, just getting that first game over with against my former team," van Riemsdyk told the Courier Post. "It just gives you that final sense of closure, I think."

Both players had slow starts, but are starting to develop into just the kind of contributors each team was looking for.

After being held off the score sheet in his first two games, van Riemsdyk has scored seven goals in the last 10 games, including a goal and an assist in Saturday's 6-0 win at the Montreal Canadiens.

The seven goals -- which rank sixth in the League -- put van Riemsdyk close to the 11 he had in 43 games last season, when he was limited by a lower-body injury and a concussion.

"Last year, whether it was injuries or whatever the case may be, I wasn't able to get into that groove and get into that rhythm of how I know I can play," van Riemsdyk said. "It's unfortunate, but I've had to move forward."

As he's moved forward, the Maple Leafs have moved up the standings, winning three straight to enter the week fifth in the Eastern Conference and three points behind the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins.

"If you look at the situations I've been playing in and the ice time I’ve been getting here, it's been pretty consistently pretty good," van Riemsdyk said. "I'm getting top-six minutes, and that's the kind of player I'm going to be. That's when I'm most successful, I think."

Schenn also has helped the Flyers achieve more recent success after a slow start. In the team's 1-3-0 start, Schenn had just seven hits and four blocked shots. In eight games since then, Schenn has thrown 39 hits, blocked 23 shots and has a plus-3 rating. And keying the team's 3-0-1 homestand, which helped the team climb to 11th in the conference but just two points out of seventh, Schenn averaged 4.75 hits and 4.5 blocked shots per game.

For the season, Schenn leads the League with 46 hits and is second on the team with 27 blocked shots. He also has a goal and an assist, a plus-3 rating and 17 penalty minutes. He's averaging 20:36 of ice time per game on the second defense pairing with Kimmo Timonen. It's four minutes per game more than he had last season with the Maple Leafs.

"He's really found a nice home here and he's really become a valuable player for us on the back end," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of Schenn. "Every night you look at his hits and his blocked shots."

After spending four seasons with the Maple Leafs, Schenn said he knows what to expect when he skates into the Air Canada Centre for the first time as a visitor.

"It's going to be exciting, but the whole team needs to be prepared and play hard," he said. "It's a tough place to play in and a tough crowd."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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