Van Riemsdyk returns home on fire

James van Riemsdyk has six points in his last five games for the Flyers, including three goals.. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Black Friday was even blacker for some Flyers: Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, Danny Briere, Braydon Coburn and Darroll Powe all had multiple-game point streaks snapped.

Not James van Riemsdyk.

Instead, van Riemsdyk will return to Newark, N.J., this afternoon as his squad takes on the Devils – not far from where he grew up in Middletown – as the Flyers’ hottest player.

Van Riemsdyk is riding a 5-game point streak and has goals in 3 straight games after battling through a 17-game scoreless drought. He scored again on Black Friday against Calgary, the first time in his career he has ever collected a goal in 3 consecutive games.

It’s hard to believe, really, considering where van Riemsdyk was less than 2 weeks ago.

He was a healthy scratch for 4 straight games, lacked any resemblance of confidence and seemed like he was searching for answers that didn’t exist.

It was just 2 weeks ago, too, that Briere was reminding the Flyers’ sophomore that things can change on a dime.

“Sometimes, it’s funny how hockey works,” van Riemsdyk said on Friday. “You may not necessarily feel you’re playing a ton of a lot different or better, but sometimes you get the bounces. Sometimes you get the points. Obviously, I want to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Van Riemsdyk says he has noticed that he’s going to the net more often – and going to the net harder. If you look at his play over the last 5 or 6 games, van Riemsdyk seems to be taking a more direct route, even if that means going through the opponents.

It’s also helped that he’s gained confidence from playing on a consistent line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl.

“I think our line just has some great chemistry,” van Riemsdyk said. “Kind of naturally, all of our three styles fit together pretty well.”

That physical edge is something that his coach, Peter Laviolette, has noticed.

“To me, when someone really starts to make a difference in the game, their skating ratchets up,” Laviolette said, “Which puts you on the physical end of things, on the puck, and now you’re playing hockey.”

It’s possible that Laviolette could move van Riemsdyk back to the power play to try and spark a unit that is just 1-for-31 (3-percent) in its last 6 contests. That could be the difference against New Jersey, which has the NHL’s 14th-ranked penalty kill at 82.9-percent.

ZHERDEV PROGRESSING: Nik Zherdev wasn’t available to the media yesterday to talk about his dazzling goal, in which he toe-dragged Niklas Hagman and roasted Miikka Kiprusoff with a snap shot under the right cross-bar.

But here’s a basic stat that might catch you off-guard: Zherdev has 8 goals this season.

That puts him on pace for about 30 goals this season, which would be a new career high. And he has also sat out 2 games as a healthy scratch.

Isn’t that about where you thought Zherdev would be at this point? In some games, he is invisible. Others, he is impossible to miss. But we knew that coming into this season. Sometimes with Zherdev, its more about who he is playing with rather than what his mood is like on any given night.

The answer seems to be that he is most noticeable with the Flyers’ top players. Not shocking.

KEY STAT: The 14th place Devils are just 3-5-2 at Prudential Center this year, where the average attendance is a brutal 14,416. That 81-percent capacity is 22nd in the NHL. The Flyers were 4-2 against the Devils last year in Newark, including the playoffs.

DID YOU KNOW: Sergei Bobrovsky was listed as the NHL’s No. 1 surprise by for the first quarter of the season?

QUOTABLE: The Islanders finally ended a 14-game losing streak on Friday. Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy contributor Sean Leahy said he was going out to get an “I was there” shirt.

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