PHILADELPHIA – As bad as the news was about James van Riemsdyk’s fractured right index finger, the Flyers could at least take solace knowing they have a competent replacement at the ready.
Coach Alain Vigneault disclosed JVR will be out of action from four to six weeks after suffering the injury midway through the first period of Wednesday night’s 5-2 win at Washington.
The Flyers wasted no time calling up Joel Farabee and then, rather than put him into the vacancy on the third line caused by van Riemsdyk’s absence, placed him on the second line with center Kevin Hayes and right wing Travis Konecny for Thursday night’s game against Carolina.
Farabee returns to the Flyers after getting sent down to the Phantoms last week to make room for newly acquired players Derek Grant (from Anaheim) and Nate Thompson (from Montreal) at the NHL trade deadline.
In 49 previous games with the Flyers, he has seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points.
“Joel has been with our team on a number of occasions,’’ Vigneault explained in a pre-game press briefing at the Wells Fargo Center. “We all know what he can bring.’’
Scott Laughton was moved off left wing on the Hayes line to third line with Grant and Tyler Pitlick.
Vigneault said van Riemsdyk was in the process of getting a second opinion but X-rays usually are pretty much indisputable.
“My understanding was it’s the same type of fracture that Laughton had,’’ Vigneault said, mindful that Laughton missed 13 games over a period of 24 days in late October/early November. “Fractures are usually four to six weeks, that’s usually the case.’’
The Stanley Cup playoffs are scheduled to start April 8 (the earliest date for any series), which means van Riemsdyk could be back in time if the Flyers qualify for the postseason.
Asked how much of a loss the sidelining of van Riemsdyk is, Vigneault shrugged.
“Since day one this year, from Nolan Patrick (chronic migraines) not being here at the beginning to then losing Oskar (Lindblom, who is battling a rare form of bone cancer) to on and on and on we’ve had our share of injuries,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s next man up, we have to find a way to win games.’’
Farabee began the year with the Phantoms but made the most of his first call-up. The Flyers hope he continues his confident play.
“We have a lot of faith and confidence in him,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s just another opportunity for guys to come in and play well.
“When ‘Ghost’ (Shayne Gostisbehere) went down (with knee surgery in January), Robert Hagg had been in and out. He comes up and plays real hard for our team. We’ve kept him in there and last night, when ‘G’ (Claude Giroux) got hit, he stood up for his teammate (fighting tough guy Tom Wilson).’’
Vigneault also said Farabee probably would have stayed last week if general manager Chuck Fletcher had only one move at the trade deadline.
“He (Farabee) was playing well for us,’’ Vigneault said. “We didn’t want a young player just standing around though. We had only 12 healthy forwards but we’re only a phone call and an hour-and-a-half drive away from getting a player up here so it’s never been an issue.
“Joel has that top six upside. If you want a player to have success, you have to put him in the right role. I think he has that potential. He’s played in the top six, the bottom six. Sometimes you go with your feeling and that’s my feeling tonight.’’
Farabee, who just turned 20 on Feb. 25, is taking all this movement in stride. In fact, he was called up briefly Sunday for the Flyers’ game at the Rangers because Sean Couturier was iffy with an illness. Couturier wound up playing.
“I went down, got a lot of practice in,’’ Farabee said. “I think that’s the biggest difference between the AHL and the NHL, you get a lot of practice time. I thought it was good to be on the ice working on some things.
“I knew if someone got hurt, I might come back up. Kind of had that in the back of my head and here we are. Just come in, keep it simple and contribute any way I can.’’
Farabee said he was having dinner with fellow rookie Morgan Frost on Wednesday night when he got the call from Fletcher.
“I kind of saw on Twitter that ‘Riemer’ kind of hurt his hand,’’ Farabee said. “So I kind of knew if he didn’t come back, I might have to come up. Chuck called me after the game.
“I feel really good, it’s late in the season but my body feels pretty good. Getting a lot of puck touches (with the Phantoms) on the ice really helped.’’
Farabee said he didn’t get his hopes up at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought I was playing,’’ he said with a smile. “Then I saw ‘Coots’ before the game and he looked pretty good. I was like, ‘I’d rather have him in the lineup than me.’ But it was good to come up, watch the game, then get in a good week of practice and here I am.’’