TAMPA, Fla. — Trevor van Riemsdyk has played a grand total of 18 NHL games. None since Nov. 16. Since then, he’s endured two surgeries — one to repair a fractured left kneecap, one to repair his right wrist — and has played just eight games in the American Hockey League.
But Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville won’t hesitate to put the rookie on the ice in the Stanley Cup Final. In fact, Quenneville said Wednesday that while van Riemsdyk won’t play in Game 1 against the Lightning tonight, he’s likely to play at some point in the series. That’s just how much of an impression he left with his early season success.
“We saw him first-hand, what he was able to do this year when he came into training camp,” Quenneville said. “He surprised us all by how well he played, and how well he thought the game, and how effective and efficient he is.”
Van Riemsdyk practiced with the team Tuesday and again at Wednesday’s morning skate. Quenneville said he asked the rookie if he could play in Game 1, but that van Riemsdyk only said he was “close.” Quenneville has always been wary of young players, particularly on the blue line. But with Michal Rozsival injured, Kimmo Timonen ineffective and scratched and the Hawks leaning heavily on their top four defensemen, Quenneville is confident that van Riemsdyk can step right in on the sport’s biggest stage.
“We’ve been watching, we’ve been skating him in practice every day,” Quenneville said. “And one of his strengths is his reads, [being] positionally aware, decision-making with the puck. He’s got a lot of attributes that can help our team. I think he came on the scene rather fast for us, and I think we’ve got a lot of confidence and trust in him.”
If he does play, van Riemsdyk likely will replace David Rundblad in the lineup. Rundblad replaced Rozsival in Game 1 against Anaheim in the conference final, and struggled mightily. He then replaced Timonen in Game 6 and acquitted himself well. He’s hoping to be a difference-maker in the Final, for however long he gets the chance.
“Tampa is a really good team — fast, skilled,” Rundblad said. “It’ll be exciting and I’m excited, too, to play. It’s a pretty cool experience to be here.”