TORONTO - Luke Schenn has a natural inclination to watch out for his kid brother Brayden.
And while that task would be a lot easier if both were on the same bench for the Philadelphia Flyers, that’s not quite the close proximity that Luke is thinking of right now. While gainfully employed by the Maple Leafs, there continues to be speculation Luke will somehow join Brayden in orange and black by the Feb. 27 trade deadline, if not elsewhere.
Something with the Leafs and Flyers was cooking a few weeks ago for forward James van Riemsdyk, before the Flyer winger suffered a concussion. He remains out of their lineup, while Philly is still looking for depth on defence after losing Chris Pronger.
For Thursday at least, the Schenns will be on opposite sides of the Wells Fargo Center. The six-foot, 200-pound Brayden’s place on the Flyers was unclear in the first meeting back in November.
“Knock on wood, he’s playing (regularly) there now and he’s healthy,” Luke said. “That’s good to see. I’m excited to be going down there and looking forward to having dinner with him (Wednesday night).”
Brayden has overcome injury and a minor-league initiation to join the Flyers’ second line on left wing with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds. He has eight points in 25 games, including a couple of picture goals, which Luke has been proud to talk about.
Brayden is capable of looking after himself, but it wasn’t that long ago that the Saskatoon-born siblings had each other’s back.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Luke said. “You’re kind of looking out for him, not when you’re out there against him, but when you’re sitting on the bench and keeping an eye on him.”
No one will be happier to see the three-week countdown to the NHL trade deadline elapse than Luke, so that the talk of Philly or some other destination will be muted for this season.
“I’ve been in trade talks for a few years. But this year it seems it started around New Year’s. But at the end of the day, it’s completely out of my control. I’ve said I’m very happy here in Toronto. I’ve been here through the tough times (three non-playoff finishes) and the team is finally starting to turn it around. If we can make the playoffs, I’m looking forward to that.”
General manager Brian Burke has a lot riding on making the playoffs this time. It was his strong preference to make a splash in late January, ahead of the deadline rush, but most expect a move of some kind before shopping closes.
“You never know what he has up his sleeve,” said Schenn. “Everyone’s aware the deadline is coming up. It has been talked about a lot in (the dressing room). But in saying that, it doesn’t matter who is in or out of our lineup, guys are trying to play as hard as they can and get points for the Leafs.”
With the 27th fast approaching, the 6-foot-3 van Riemsdyk still has not been well enough to participate in contact drills. His concussion symptoms often return without warning. When he went out of the lineup, he had 11 goals and 11 assists in 37 games.
“I don’t want to place expectations on when I’m going to be back,” vam Riemsdyk told local media. “I just want to heal and be good and go from there. It’s been a little difficult to place what exactly causes it. Obviously, I’m doing different treatments and different things to work through it.”
Thursday’s meeting could either elevate the Leafs into a battle for a higher playoff seed or jeopardize the seventh spot they held after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Four points separate Toronto from Philly. The Leafs’ record of 10-5-1 since New Year’s Eve has come mostly at the expense of teams either equal or below them in the standings. But Philly has fewer holes.
“That’s going to be a team we’ll be chasing for the rest of the season,” optimistic Leaf winger and ex-Flyer Joffrey Lupul said. “(Thursday) is going to be a big challenge.
“They always play well at home. They have some good skill and are a strong team. We’ll be up for it.”