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Flyers rookie van Riemsdyk hits bump in the road

Tuesday, 12.29.2009 / 4:59 PM / NHL Insider

By John McGourty - Staff Writer

Philadelphia Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk, New York Islanders right wing John Tavares and Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly started this season like gangbusters but have all fallen into severe scoring slumps.

Van Riemsdyk has 1 goal in his past 20 games. O'Reilly hasn't scored in 18 games and Tavares, although he still leads all rookies with 16 goals and 28 points, has 1 goal in his past nine games and 1 assist in 15 games.

Hey, no one said the NHL was easy and van Riemsdyk is the first to agree. His struggles aren't limited to scoring problems. He's been minus-1 in four of his past five games and six of 10.

"It's the best League in the world for a reason," said the Middletown, N.J. native, the Flyers' first pick, No. 2, in the 2007 Entry Draft. "I never expected it to be a flawless transition or to come in and have whatever number of goals, lighting up every game stats-wise. Realistically, that's what you want to do. You say you're going that way, but, I mean, obviously you know there are going to be some rough patches along the way and it's a matter of just battling through it and keep playing hard. I think I'm doing some good things out there, but the numbers aren't showing up right now. But, hockey's a game where the numbers don't really mean everything."

Under new coach Peter Laviolette, van Riemsdyk has moved from the top two lines to the third line with center Darroll Powe and right wing Arron Asham. He's seen his ice time drop from about 16 minutes per game to a low of 9:12 last week against Tampa Bay. He played 11:02 in Sunday's victory against the Islanders.

"Powe is a guy who can fly and he's really strong, and he's a really good two-way player, and the same with Asham," van Riemsdyk said. "Arron has some good skills. He has a really good shot and can get in the corner. So, I think us three can really complement each other well. These last couple of games on our wings we've been doing some pretty good things and creating chances and it's just a matter of us burying them."

You could look at it as a demotion or a coach's quiet way of taking a rookie out of the limelight for awhile. Laviolette has done the latter while encouraging van Riemsdyk to go with his strengths.

"I see a tremendous amount of speed and skill in his game," Laviolette said. "I think it's really important that he sees that and uses that all the time on the ice because he's a big guy with speed like the wind, and he's got the skill to make plays.

"Sometimes, when you step out of your game a little bit you stop moving your feet or you stop trying things. He has to continue to push the envelope with his speed and skill. When he does that he becomes dangerous, even for the most veteran of defensemen in the NHL. He's got that in him. He's just got to push himself to bring that every night."

Van Riemsdyk said he is trying to apply his coach's message.

"He asked me to use my skating along with those guys," the rookie said. "As an offensive player, it's a sheer advantage when you're moving your feet and always going. You're hard to contain when you're moving your feet and using your speed. That's something he's stressed to us, using our speed to our advantage and make the defender really have to make a good play to stop you."

Contact John McGourty at
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