PHILADELPHIA — Last year, Chris Pronger said it was the “season from hell” with knee, foot and hand injuries. Apparently now it’s James van Riemsdyk’s turn. He missed a few games early in the season with injuries he was forced to play through. Then he missed 15 with a concussion.
In the six games since his return, things were going well for van Riemsdyk. While he hadn’t found the goal column, he was contributing. He started last week’s road trip in a big way by finding Wayne Simmonds for a game-tying goal with less than 10 seconds remaining in Winnipeg. The return home, however, wasn’t as rewarding for him personally. The Flyers walked away with a 6-3 win Thursday night, their first against the Islanders at home this season.
In the first period, van Riemsdyk laid out to block a shot by Islanders defenseman Milan Jurchina and the crowd roared for his effort. From his stomach he cleared the puck out of the zone after Flyers center Brayden Schenn blocked a second shot from Jurchina, but van Riemsdyk couldn’t get up. The shot broke a bone in his left foot.
“JVR’s first blocked shot, and he’s got a broken foot. I feel bad for the guy,” Scott Hartnell joked. “It’s frustrating. I think he was finally getting his timing back from his concussion…you look for a blessing in disguise and he’ll be rested and ready to go come playoff time.”
Using his stick as a crutch he hobbled back to the Flyers’ bench. He tried to take his next shift, but only got to center ice before he realized he couldn’t put pressure on his foot. His night was over and his season might be too. His goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, appreciated the effort.
“You can see the guys like JVR, Brayden Schenn sacrifice themselves, just put themselves in front of a 100 mile per hour puck, just don’t get the puck to the goal, it’s amazing,” said Bryzgalov, who made 21 saves on the night for his 23rd win of the year. “It gives a boost to the team like ‘Hey, this guy battles, we’ve got to battle too.’ You get back to the game and we scored two goals and continued to push the pace of the game to the high tempo. Eventually, it paid off pretty well.”
On Friday, van Riemsdyk will see Dr. Steve Raikin, who also oversaw Pronger’s broken right foot last season. The early expectation is that van Riemsdyk misses 6-8 weeks. Even six weeks would put his return in the first round of the playoffs.
The Flyers will likely make a call-up at some point on Friday. Harry Zolnierczyk and Eric Wellwood are the likeliest candidates.
A concussion took 15 games from van Riemsdyk this season, and the broken foot may take the remaining 19. The Flyers were looking forward to van Riemsdyk finding the same form he had last year in the playoffs, now the winger can only look forward to getting back on the ice.
From head to toe, it hasn’t been the year van Riemsdyk was hoping for after signing a six-year extension in the offseason.