Healthy competition can be good sometimes, and it appears that is the case with the Flyers' James van Riemsdyk.
The 21-year-old forward from Middletown, N.J., returned to the lineup Friday night after being scratched for Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago.
Van Riemsdyk, who really didn't have to fight for playing time in the regular season, had arguably his best game of the playoffs.
He was credited with an assist on Ville Leino's goal, but Van Riemsdyk was even better in setting up Matt Carle's score.
Van Riemsdyk got the puck down low and did what he does best: Used his big body (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) to shield the puck from the defenseman, carrying it around the back of the net before dishing it to his linemates, who by then were in position in front of the net. What had been a routine play became a great scoring chance and eventually a goal by Carle because of Van Riemsdyk's work.
"I thought James played a good game," coach Peter Laviolette said. "To get back in there and take a couple of games off, it was good for him."
Van Riemsdyk could have moped when he was scratched after playing 78 of 82 regular-season games and the first 18 of the playoffs. But he showed maturity beyond his age in agreeing with Laviolette's assessment that it was a positive.
"It was good for me to take a step back a little bit and just really appreciate how fast the game is and how quick decisions need to be made out there," Van Riemsdyk said. "So I think it ended up being a good thing for me."
Make no mistake, though: Van Riemsdyk was not pulled from the lineup because he needed to be. The Flyers have 13 healthy forwards vying for 12 spots right now, and he was simply the odd man out for two games.
But Van Riemsdyk said he had been nervous in Game 1, and he calmed himself down more this time.
"(Laviolette) said, 'Just go out there and play your game and don't play with any nerves,' " Van Riemsdyk said.
If he can continue to do that, Van Riemsdyk could be a difference-maker. With both teams' defenses neutralizing the respective top lines, depth is a key in these finals. Van Riemsdyk's center, Claude Giroux, already has come up with some big goals, and that line has even more potential with Van Riemsdyk back.
"It's always huge at this time of the year getting contributions from different guys, and it's exciting to be able to contribute in that way," Van Riesmsdyk said.