Few teams have had to deal with injury trouble as bad as the St. Louis Blues, but they could be getting back a key piece of their offense in the near future.
Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, who fractured his ankle Oct. 23, had been participating in morning skates with the team heading into the all-star break and, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy P. Rutherford, a return for Schwartz could potentially come as soon as a three-game homestand at the beginning of February.
“We don’t have a game circled,” Schwartz told Rutherford. “But that’s the goal, sometime shortly after the break. Hopefully sooner than later, but it’s too early to tell yet. You want to come in and play right away and not have anything holding you back. That’s my goal.”
Schwartz’s road back to the lineup has been a long one. It took six weeks before he could put weight on the fractured ankle, Schwartz told Rutherford, but the 23-year-old continued to work his upper body with the few exercises he was still able to do. Schwartz resumed skating about a month ago, Rutherford reported.
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said the team has no timeline for Schwartz’s return, but it’s clear a Blues offense that has been mediocre — they rank 15th in the league with 129 goals and 10th with 85 goals at 5-on-5 —could use the bump that Schwartz offers. He has scored 53 goals in his past two seasons and was trending towards being a 30-goal scorer this season before the injury took him out.
Schwartz flies under the radar at times in St. Louis with the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and a roster that includes Alex Steen, Paul Stastny and David Backes, but over the past two seasons he has been one of the more prolific goal scorers in the league at 5-on-5. Coming into this season, Schwartz was scoring .88 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. That ranks 21st of the 221 skaters to play at least 2,000 5-on-5 minutes between October 2013 and April 2015.
Schwartz said he hoped he’d continue to be that kind of “impact player” when he got back into the lineup.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been counted on to help offensively,” Schwartz told Rutherford. “I don’t want that to change.”
Hitchcock made it clear, though, that the Blues won’t be expecting Schwartz to come in and immediately start lighting the lamp. St. Louis has dealt with similar injuries in the past and Hitchcock told Rutherford it’s not realistic to expect Schwartz to come back in perfect mid-season form.
Even when Schwartz returns, though, the Blues will still have to wait for the returns of starting goaltender Jake Allen, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forwards Steve Ott and Magnus Paajarvi before they’ve cleared their injured list.