Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/17/13
His office is in the blue paint of the goal crease, not faceoff circle red. That fact has perhaps never been more apparent than in James van Riemsdyk’s play over the first quarter of the Maple Leafs’ season. A pair of goals by the big winger Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre jump-started a flat-lining Toronto offence and helped the team to a hang-on-for-dear-life 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. With the morning acquisition of young centre Peter Holland, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was able to return van Riemsdyk to his customary work space on the left side of a line flanked by Phil Kessel on the other wing. The result was both swift and efficient and allowed van Riemsdyk to pick up where he left off before injuries to Tyler Bozak and David Bolland squeezed him into the middle. “I’m probably a little more comfortable playing (on the wing), maybe allows me to do some different things as far as being in front of the net a little more often,” van Riemsdyk said after boosting his goal total to nine on the season. “That’s a big part of my game, obviously.” Though he tried to make the best of the awkward situation at centre — Carlyle had no real choice and van Riemsdyk gave it the old college try — he didn’t manage a point in his four full games there. Kessel managed just one goal in that stretch and the team itself just four overall. So when general manager Dave Nonis was able to finalize a trade with Anaheim late Saturday morning to acquire Holland for Marlies defencemen Jesse Blacker and some draft picks, lineup options opened. After playing an AHL game in Providence on Friday night, Caledon, Ont., native Holland was propelled into the bright lights of Hockey Night In Canada and in the middle of two of the Leafs best offensive players — van Riemsdyk and Kessel. While Holland didn’t have a direct input on the offence, merely springing JVR did. Both of his goals — on first period tip-ins from expertly played Cody Franson point shots — came quickly after a faceoff. If van Riemsdyk had been taking either draw, obviously, he would have been in no position to score. With his nine goals in 18 games, van Riemsdyk is on pace to crush his previous NHL season best — the 21 goals he scored with the Flyers in 2010-11. The more he has matured as a player — and the more ice time Carlyle has afforded him as a result — the more he has evolved into a bonafide scoring threat.
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