James van Riemsdyk

Giroux on van Riemsdyk: “He is a beast”


For the second straight postseason, James van Riemsdyk is reminding everybody why he was the No. 2 overall pick — taken behind Blackhawks star Patrick Kane — at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound power forward is coming off a stellar Game 1 of Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference semifinal against the New Jersey Devils. JVR scored once, put five shots on goal and finished plus-3 in 17:31 of ice time. The ice time total was huge, more than his first two playoff appearances (Games 5/6 vs. Pittsburgh) combined.

As such, he’s being lauded with compliments from teammates and coaches alike.

“He is a beast,” Claude Giroux told CBC. “He looks like the James from last year in the playoffs. He is so strong and so fast. He has everything a player would want.

“He was unbelievable again.”

Daniel Briere, van Riemsdyk’s linemate in Game 1 (along with Jakub Voracek), also heaped praise on the 22-year-old.

“The way he played yesterday was simply amazing,” Briere said. “He changes everything up front. Now we have another player other teams have to worry about it.

“We already have enough offence. Add James to the mix and it’s a big addition. His play in the second and third period, the way he was skating around defencemen and the scoring chances he created on top of that was a huge part of the difference in us winning.”

JVR he missed 39 games this season because of three separate injuries (groin, concussion, foot) but still managed 11 goals and 13 assists in just over half a season. Regular season success has been fleeting but, with his size, speed and ability to drive the net, he’s immensely valuable in the postseason, which is where he does the majority of his damage.

He had seven goals in 11 playoff games last year and looked to be Philly’s most dangerous forward on most nights.

Against New Jersey, he’s using his large frame and parking it in Martin Brodeur’s kitchen. JVR provided the screen on Briere’s overtime winner and Devils coach Peter DeBoer recognized his team needs to do a better job of getting van Riemsdyk out of Brodeur’s way.

“We have to do a better job of boxing out in front of Marty,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Monday. “We also have to do a better job of limiting the time they spend in our end of the ice. We need to clear the puck out and keep the puck in the other end.”

After healthy scratch, Severson vows to play ‘next 80 games’

Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson
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Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.

It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.

“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”

Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.

Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.

Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.

“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.