"There are tough decisions to be made," said Laviolette, whose Flyers play his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Thursday. "You're trying to win hockey games every night. James got caught in a numbers game. He's got to continue to practice hard, and when he gets that opportunity and gets get back in there . . . you want to make it a point to let everyone know that [a benching] is not going to happen again."
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, van Riemsdyk had an excellent preseason but did not score a goal in his first 13 regular-season games. He was among the players who made the trip to Carolina, where the team played golf at the elite Pinehurst resort on Tuesday.
Many believe that van Riemsdyk, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who scored 15 goals as a rookie last season, needs to play with more of an edge to his game.
The Atlantic Division-leading Flyers (9-4-2) are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, but Laviolette thinks they can improve.
"There are always areas we can be better in," said Laviolette, whose team edged the New York Islanders, 2-1, on Saturday, then dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Washington on Sunday. "Offensively, the last two games, I think we've slipped a little bit. I don't think we've generated as much as we had in the previous seven or eight games. Defensively, we've played OK."
The Flyers entered Tuesday fifth in the 30-team NHL with a 2.27 goals-against average; offensively, they were tied for seventh, averaging three goals per game.
"It's a mountain that you climb through the course of the year, and you get to a point where . . . you enter into the playoffs and you hope you're firing on all cylinders," Laviolette said. "We're not there yet. We've got to continue to work at it and continue to improve.
"When we play a certain brand, a certain style, we'll win a lot of hockey games."
The Flyers are at their best when their forecheck is dominating and they are not allowing many shots. That didn't happen Sunday, when they yielded 39 shots against Washington - and only Sergei Bobrovsky's outstanding goaltending enabled them to salvage a point.
Cap woes brewing? With Claude Giroux's signing, the Flyers already have committed to $52.3 million of the maximum $59.4 million for 2011-12 - and seven players are not under contract for that season: Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Zherdev, Nodl, Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, and Sean O'Donnell.
Then again, a trade or two will change the cap picture.
Breakaways. Defenseman O'Donnell leads the Flyers with a plus-8 rating, while Leino and Blair Betts lead the forwards at plus-6. . . . MediaWeek.com reported that ESPN may make a run at NHL games next year.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.