Flyers Storylines: JVR back in Philly with Leafs

Flyers Storylines: JVR back in Philly with Leafs

February 24, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Although there are still aspects to their game that need to be improved, the Flyers showed signs of life and gave fans a glimmer of hope after a mostly positive week.  

Sure, the team is still getting off to alarmingly slow starts and lost Matt Read for six weeks because of a rib cage injury suffered in Wednesday's emotional win over Pittsburgh, but it's not all bad.

The Flyers, who won three of four games this past week, seem to be playing with a lot more confidence and received a major morale boost after the surprise return of All-Star forward Scott Hartnell on Saturday.

Entering Sunday, the Flyers were the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference standings. That means they are back in the playoff hunt with nearly half of their schedule complete.

It seems silly to be watching the standings, but in a lockout-shortened season every game because that much more magnified.

With that in mind here are a few storylines we'll be keeping an eye on this week:

JVR’s return to Philly
When the Flyers host Toronto on Monday night, it will mark the first time James van Riemsdyk takes the Wells Fargo Center ice as a member of the Maple Leafs.

The Flyers selected van Riemsdyk with the second-overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft and he spent three seasons with the orange and black before being traded to the Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn this past offseason.

Van Riemsdyk appeared in 196 career regular-season games for the Flyers from 2009-12, posting 47 goals and 52 assists.

The 23-year-old forward has found some early success in Toronto playing on a line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. Through 19 games this season, JVR has collected 11 goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating.

In his first game against his former club, van Riemsdyk had a goal and four shots in the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the Flyers on Feb. 11 in Toronto.

Getting offensive
After struggling to find the back of the net in the early going, the Flyers have had several key players step up their offensive games over the past week and a half.

No Flyer has been more productive in the past five games than Jakub Voracek. He has registered at least one point in each of those contests and has a total of four goals and eight assists during that span. The 23-year-old is tied with Wayne Simmonds and Read for the team-lead in goals with seven and is first on the Flyers in assists (15) and points (22) this season.

Claude Giroux is finally looking like the player that registered 93 points last season. The 25-year-old has three goals and five assists over his last four games and appears to be much more relaxed after a frustrating, slow start to this campaign.

Another Flyer who is getting the job done in all aspects of the game is Simmonds. The 24-year-old has earned two Gordie Howe hat tricks – a goal, an assist and a fight – in two of his last three games and has three markers and four helpers during his current four-game point streak overall.

Brayden Schenn had his five-game point streak, in which he collected two goals and four assists, snapped in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. How did he respond? The 21-year-old registered two tallies and added an assist to help spark the Flyers to a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

Hartsy’s back
Hartnell made his surprising return to the Flyers’ lineup in Saturday’s win against Winnipeg after missing the previous 16 games with a broken left foot.

Hartnell, who led the Flyers in goals last year with 37, underwent surgery to repair the fracture in his foot after he was injured in a 3-0 loss in New Jersey on Jan. 22. He practiced with the AHL Adirondack Phantoms on Thursday and said he was still five to seven days away from a return.

However, Hartnell was reunited with Giroux and Voracek on the Flyers’ top line against the Jets and recorded five shots on net in just under 15 minutes of ice time.

Hartnell’s return to the lineup is even more important since Read will be sidelined for more than a month. He had a few quality chances on Saturday, but his timing was understandably a little off.

With three games on the schedule this week, look for Hartnell, who had missed only three regular-season contests in his previous five years with the orange and black, to ease himself back into game shape and give the Flyers an extra physical edge. 

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