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Younger Blues get chance to step up with Jaden Schwartz injured

The talented left winger is out at least six weeks and while his team is riding high in the standings, it never hurts to get contributions from new sources

If there’s any team in the NHL right now that could survive the loss of a top-line player, it’s the St. Louis Blues – not that they were asking for such adversity. But the Blues will have to deal with it, as left winger Jaden Schwartz is expected to miss at least six weeks with an ankle injury after getting hit by a Mike Green shot in a win over Detroit. After six weeks, Schwartz will be re-evaluated by doctors.

It’s really a shame, because Schwartz was having his best NHL season ever. Playing on a line with center Brayden Schenn and Alex Steen, Schwartz was putting up more than a point per game and terrorizing the opposition with his speed and doggedness. Injuries have been a sad reality for the undersized left winger throughout his career, but if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the Blues can ride out this storm.

St. Louis is the best team in the Western Conference right now and having a bit of a cushion during the Schwartz injury will be crucial in the deadly Central Division. Amazing to think the franchise has done all this with Robby Fabbri missing the entire season due to a knee injury, but it speaks to the great depth assembled by GM Doug Armstrong.

With Schwartz out, the Blues recalled the versatile Ivan Barbashev. Unlike Schwartz, Barbashev has a good amount of size. He can play the game anyway you need him, though he doesn’t have the same offensive ceiling or speed of Schwartz. It’s also worth noting that the Blues are getting contributions from Samuel Blais and Dmitrij Jaskin lately. While Jaskin has the pedigree of being a second-round pick, Blais has been a sleeper (he went 176th overall in 2014) who first caught my eye at the Traverse City prospects tournament a few years back. He has grown quite a bit as a player and now he’s starting to get some tread in the NHL.

The big-bodied Jaskin always had a lot of potential, but with a veteran Blues organization he had yet to make a lasting impact. This may be his best opportunity to really put a hammerlock on a bigger role, however. Jaskin had a three-game point streak snapped against Buffalo on Sunday night, but he also played a season-high 17:50 and did so with Schenn and Steen as his linemates. Now, if Jaskin continues to play on the top line, his chances of being successful obviously increase. But at the least he needs to prove he can play on a scoring line long-term because you’re definitely going to see Schwartz back up top upon his return.

As for the Blues overall, I doubt they welcome this adversity (yay, our buddy is hurt!), but at the same time, it’s good to be battle-tested. Their most critical stretch coming up involves a Western Canada road swing. While none of their opponents are particularly hot right now, it’s worth noting that the Blues have to play three games in four days against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

If St. Louis can continue to play solid hockey with Schwartz out of the lineup, they will be that much more dangerous once playoff time comes – because this could be the year they finally hoist the Stanley Cup, if the stars align.

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