Van Riemsdyk unexpectedly made the Blackhawks’ roster out of training camp after playing last season at the University of New Hampshire. But in his 18th NHL game, he fractured his left patella while blocking a shot. He returned to the ice in February, but soon after suffered a right wrist injury and underwent his second surgery of the season.
Now his season could take another surprising turn: Van Riemsdyk could be reinserted into Chicago's lineup during the Stanley Cup finals.
Van Riemsdyk was aggressive with the way he used his right wrist during practice at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, and said how he feels Wednesday could determine whether Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville puts him in the Game 1 lineup.
“I just want to see how it reacts from today, pushing it pretty hard, and see how it feels tomorrow,” van Riemsdyk said. “Definitely think it’s right there. It’d definitely be pretty special to get out there and play.”
Van Riemsdyk has tried to be honest with the Blackhawks about how his wrist has felt. He didn’t think he was physically ready to play during the Western Conference finals, and let Chicago's coaching and training staffs know that.
Van Riemsdyk felt his wrist was stronger Tuesday and that he was capable of doing more.
“Just being able to put a little more weight, lean into some things a little more, and be able to move the puck a little faster, a little quicker,” van Riemsdyk said. “Obviously out here in the finals, that’s going to be a priority to be able to move the puck like that. It’s just been day by day coming along. Hopefully it keeps progressing.
“I think today I was just focusing on passing it hard and just focusing on treating each pass like it was in a game and not babying it. Just kind of seeing how it felt and going for it and see where it left me. It responded better than I hoped.”
Van Riemsdyk has attended the Stanley Cup finals before as a spectator. He watched his older brother, James van Riemsdyk, and the Philadelphia Flyers go up against the Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals.
Van Riemsdyk expects some nerves if he does end up playing in his own finals.
“Obviously, when it’s something you dreamed of doing your whole life and you get there, you’re going to be a little nervous and maybe [have] some butterflies,” van Riemsdyk said. “But I think it’s mostly going to be excited to be out there in a Stanley Cup final with the guys on this team. It’s going to be a pretty special moment. Just kind of don’t think too much about it and just really soak it in and be prepared to play.”
Van Riemsdyk could replace defenseman David Rundblad in the lineup. Rundblad played a combined 11:28 of ice time in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference finals.