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For van Riemsdyk, a happy homecoming

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK -- It was back in October when James van Riemsdyk made a memorable debut in his home state of New Jersey by playing a key third-line role in a victory against the Devils for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The native of Middletown and second pick of the 2007 draft had over 100 family members and friends cheering him on in his return, despite the fact van Riemsdyk wore opposing colors. And they had plenty to cheer about after he picked up 2 assists in a 5-2 win.

Many of the same family members were probably in attendance Wednesday when van Riemsdyk returned to New Jersey for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Hopefully, it was the first of many this year," van Riemsdyk said. "I realize you have to take it one game at a time, but having a chance to play for the Cup is pretty exciting."

He played a fourth-line role in Game 1, logging just 5:29 alongside Claude Giroux and Arron Asham. During Thursday's morning skate, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette also had Ville Leino working with van Riemsdyk and Giroux -- perhaps a sign of things to come.

"I don't think I could have drawn it up any better than having (my first playoff game) be in Jersey," he said. "I had a bunch of friends and family that came and shared it with me and it was pretty exciting."

He did admit that texting and phone calls were limited, to some extent.

"I think they realize now that I have to be more focused on the game, so I didn't get as many ticket requests, but there were still a good amount of people who attended," van Riemsdyk said.

Van Riemsdyk is learning pretty quickly that there is a noticeable difference in the air when the playoffs role around.

"You could feel the excitement in the room and the energy at practice out there," he said. "The guys are really excited and focused at the same time."

For van Riemsdyk, who finished his rookie season tied for the team lead with 6 game-winning goals, his first full season in the League qualified as a learning experience.

"There're obviously a lot of ups and downs and you just can never let the highs be too high and the lows be too low," said van Riemsdyk, who turns 21 on May 4. "You have to keep it even keel throughout the whole way; I definitely learned a lot through this experience and steady is to my advantage going forward.

"I just have to be ready to go for every game," he said. "There are 82 games and they're coming at you one after the other. If you're mentally prepared and take care of your body, there's a good chance you'll have success out there."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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