VOORHEES – It might be a little early to start talking about possible line combinations for the Flyers this season, given the opener is still nearly three weeks away.
Then again, the first preseason game is Monday night against the Islanders and this type of venue is where head coaches experiment to see if there’s some natural chemistry with certain trios.
So it will be interesting to see if a line of Kevin Hayes at center and James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom on the flanks gets to see some action against the New Yorkers, either in Philly on Monday or at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday.
They’ve been skating together at times during the first two days of training camp at the Skate Zone and so far, so good.
Hayes, who came over by way of an offseason trade with Winnipeg, is sort of the wild card here.
The Flyers have put a lot of faith in his ability, handing him a seven-year, $50-million contract even though he’s never registered more than 25 goals or 49 points in one season.
No matter. Both van Riemsdyk and Lindblom believe a line like this could do some good things for first-year coach Alain Vigneault.
JVR has known Hayes since the two were in grade school.
“I’ve gotten to know him really well over the years, even through him getting here,’’ van Riemsdyk said after Saturday’s practice. “When he was thinking about coming here (the Flyers acquired Hayes’ negotiating rights from the Jets, but it was still up to him to sign here), I was following him.
“It’s been fun to play the first couple days with him. I thought me, him and Oskar have had some decent chemistry so far. Obviously as we get into some more live stuff, game-like situations, hopefully we can build on that.’’
In a way, it’s a feeling-out process, getting to know where a linemate is going to be and figuring out the best way to put him in the optimum position to succeed.
“You know, there are different situations where guys tend to learn about themselves on the ice,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “And it’s just getting a feel what a player likes to do in those situations.
“The first thing that jumps out at you is just how long his (Hayes’) reach is, how he’s able to shield the puck so well for guys. It’s kind of giving him that extra read off of him, that extra second to know that he’s able to hold a guy off so you don’t have to support him maybe as quickly as you would with someone else.’’
The Lindblom element factors in as well. The Swede came on strong at the end of last season to finish with 17 goals.
“I didn’t play with Oskar last season but just watching him play, he’s a beast on the forecheck,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Really smart player, skilled. So it’s been fun so far developing some chemistry.’’
Both JVR and Lindblom are listed as left wings, so if these three wind up together, someone is going to have to move.
At the moment, it looks like Lindblom will be moving to the right
“We just have to stay strong on the puck and we’re going to get scoring chances,’’ Lindblom said. “We both want to be in front of the net, but we can’t always be there, so we just have to read off each other a bit.’’
Van Riemsdyk suffered a broken foot in the first week of last season and by the time he got back, his timing was rusty. Still, he rallied in the second half to score 27 goals in just 66 games.
He’s hoping to carry that momentum over to this year.
“I had the same linemate for the past six years in Toronto,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “You didn’t really have to think out there, you just knew. You got in the flow of your role.
“Here, there were some growing pains. New team, new coach, new linemates, all these different things. Getting hurt right away didn’t help. Toward the end, I was able to find some more success.’’
If the Hayes line experiment does work, it will make life a lot easier for Vigneault.
“I’ve liked that line, I really like the way Hayes led his two teammates, both with and without the puck,’’ Vigneault said. “For us, we wanted to get a look at Oskar on the right side. We’re probably going to try him there during exhibition (season).
“Being able to play more than one position is a bonus. I’ve liked that line’s work ethic. I’ve liked how they’ve competed so far.’’