Nikolay Zherdev was a healthy scratch for the Flyers the last time they faced the New York Islanders. He was also a scratch the game before against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Coach Peter Laviolette said that it wasn’t to send a message to Zherdev, but it wasn’t difficult reading between the lines.
With the suspension of Danny Briere for introducing his stick to Frans Nielsen’s face and the shoulder injury to Andreas Nodl, Zherdev made it back into the line-up. While he wasn’t the best player on the ice, his work in the corners and aggressive forechecking were exactly what Laviolette was looking for in the Russian sniper. His goal Thursday night against New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (and former teammate) may have been the flukiest, luckiest goal I’ve seen in awhile, but it was a goal nonetheless.
If there’s anyone else on this roster who needs a fire lot under him, it’s sophomore forward James Van Riemsdyk. Announced earlier this morning, JVR will be a healthy scratch tonight in favor of Nodl.
JVR had a good start last season before hitting a wall. For all of the work he’s done in the offseason to improve his upper body strength and decrease his body fat, it doesn’t appear that the wall has come down. JVR is still looking for his first goal of the season, a disappointing fact for this team.
JVR had been skating on a line with rookie Eric Wellwood and Captain Mike Richards for the last two games. While Wellwood gets some leeway for being thrust into a new environment with new teammates, JVR needs to be held accountable. He was responsible for the turnover that led to the first Carolina Hurricanes goal on Monday.
After Briere returns, the Flyers may have to return Wellwood to the Phantoms, but Van Riemsdyk isn’t a guarantee to get ice time. It’s still too early to call him a bust (though that hasn’t prevented many in Philadelphia from crying for his demotion), but at this rate, he may be lucky if he matches his record as a rookie.