Monday, January 8, 2018


Schwartz sheds walking boot, still on target according to Yeo; looking back 
at loss to Caps in OT; Dunn activated, Walman reassigned; Sanford skating

ST. LOUIS -- He's not on the ice, but just the sight of Jaden Schwartz walking without restrictions is good news for the Blues.

Schwartz was at Scottrade Center with his teammates, many of who were part of an optional skate.

But for Schwartz, who's been out since sustaining a right ankle injury on Dec. 9, he was walking without a boot, no crutches and no limitations or restrictions.

"I haven't talked to Ray [Barile] yet today on that, but I saw him without a boot last week," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schwartz. "That was really encouraging for me. I would just say that the last thing I heard is that everything's on pace right now, everything's on schedule. You're not going to put him in a bad spot and try to rush him back too quickly. Obviously we're eager to get him back. Maybe tomorrow I'll get more of an update for you."

The Blues originally said Schwartz would be re-evaluated in six weeks, which would put his timetable around Jan. 20, meaning Schwartz will miss a minimum of at least three, possibly four more games. But he still has to get on the ice and skate, and to the knowledge here, that hasn't happened yet.

* Looking back to OT loss -- A couple things on the Blues' 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals had Yeo talking teaching points but also feeling like he liked a number of things in the game.

One, it wasn't overly egregious, but Yeo felt there was a slash there from Nicklas Backstrom on Colton Parayko that ultimately led to Backstrom's goal with 43 seconds remaining.

Parayko skated across the Caps' blue line into the offensive zone and as he did, he encountered Backstrom, who took a chop at Parayko's stick, knocking it out of his hands, and former Blue T.J. Oshie.

With no call made, Backstrom was able to circle back around and head up ice, taking Oshie's stretch pass as the Blues were changing. Backstrom beat Carter Hutton with a quick snap shot high blocker side to end the game.

"I thought it was a potential slashing penalty, but what are you gonna do? We certainly could have got the call there and things might have turned out different obviously if you get a two-minute power play in overtime obviously," Yeo said. "Disappointing that it ended like that, especially given that we had a few really good chances in overtime. It was probably one of our best overtimes just in terms of the way we were controlling the puck and generating chances. But that's the way overtime goes."

There was also the frustration from Blues fans that Vladimir Tarasenko didn't need to make a line change in that situation and thus left Hutton in a vulnerable spot having to face a breakaway. 

Fans felt Tarasenko could have backtracked or at the very least, stayed on the ice and perhaps prevented Oshie's long stretch pass or at the very least, provided opposition to Backstrom on the play.

"I think we could look at a number of things that always could be handled a little bit differently," Yeo said. "We could have asked that he could have handled things differently. You could look at the three chances that we had and they could have handled things differently. That's what 3-on-3 is, it's sort of an opportunity one way and quite often those opportunities are one-attack scenarios that turn into one-attack scenario going back the other way."

But the teaching moment to all this comes from Parayko's play, which saw him really skate into bad ice and leave himself in the vulnerable position of losing the puck or having something happen with more real estate to work with instead of cornering himself like that surrounded by two Capitals skaters.

"Yeah, I do think so. I'd like to see him probably delay and kind of realize that you're skating into sort of an area where you're going to get sealed off and run out of room," Yeo said. "Absolutely, there's a teaching opportunity there. I think that's the good thing about 3-on-3 is there's still opportunities to learn and get better at it. It's relatively still new for teams and players. In a situation like that, certainly I think you go back, use the ice that's behind you to sort of generate another opportunity to attack with speed."

Where the Blues (26-16-3) really hurt themselves is A) not putting the Caps away with high quality scoring chances when leading 2-1 in the second when they outshot Washington 17-6, and penalties that fueled the Caps' power play with two goals.

"No question. I mean, Tage [Thompson] hit a post there, 'Vladi' [Tarasenko] hit one, I think even two posts. We had some really good looks. For me most importantly, we responded with a really strong game. We knew that they were a good team and they've won a lot of hockey games and I really felt we did enough things to win that hockey game. It was a really strong game from us, generated a number of quality scoring chances. Good to score again three goals in the game. Not perfect by any means but considering back to back games against that opponent, it was a solid effort from our group."

* Dunn activated, Walman reassigned -- Blues defenseman Vince Dunn was activated off injured reserve and was back on the ice after taking a week off to recover from flu-like symptoms. 

With Dunn skating again, the Blues assigned defenseman Jake Walman to the Chicago Wolves.

"A little better, but obviously he's a little run down," Yeo said of Dunn. "But it takes a little time to come back from that. Good to have him back with the group."

Dunn won't play in the Blues' final game Tuesday against the Florida Panthers before a six-day break, but he's glad to be skating again.

"I'm feeling better," Dunn said. "I don't know if I could say I could play, but I'm headed in the right direction.

"All my head, my chest. It wasn't stomach at all. My body was aching. I didn't really have any energy to play, so I thought it was kind best just staying home and rest. I didn't really see it coming. I don't really know where I got it from, I was inside most of the time. None of the guys got it here. It was just kind of colds going around."

Dunn's spent a lot of time in bed and away from the team obviously to prevent anything from spreading.

"Just rest and water," Dunn said. "Just been chugging liquids. Not eating too much but just trying to get in as much into me as I can. A lot of soup lately. That's all I've been eating the last week. I'm getting sick if it.

"I've just got to get my strength back, put the time in the gym now. That's when I can take advantage of it. Maybe put in a little extra work over the break that I (normally) would. I've got be ready for after the break, for that second half of the season."

* Sanford continues to practice -- Blues forward Zach Sanford, who's missed the entire season thus far with a dislocated left shoulder, was one of 13 skaters (including goalies Jake Allen and Hutton) on the ice.

Sanford isn't taking any contact yet and said that won't come for a while still, but is feeling good to continue to progress.

"The contact part is definitely a ways away," Sanford said. "I still got a lot of work to do with my strength and conditioning and everything. That part's been going good, but I'm kind of taking it day-by-day, week-by-week, whatever the doc says, it goes. When he say I can take it up a notch, that's when I'll go with it.

"I think it's just a lot of strengthening still. My shoulder's still weak. I've got the program going and all that. Even in the gym here with my legs and conditioning, that's all come along. Jut a little more time here and some more work, hopefully I'll be back soon."

Sanford is given the ability to increase his workouts as long as he feels up to it, more so doing "whatever I feel comfortable with," but from a mental standpoint, just being back on the ice is reassuring to him.

"That's been huge for me," Sanford said. "A lot of us joke around here that I've become a hockey player again and part of the team again. I couldn't do much and it wasn't anyone else's fault. Its good to get around the guys more and get back out there and get back into a bit of a routine."

Sanford, who was acquired on Feb. 28, 2017 from the Washington Capitals for Kevin Shattenkirk, said he still plans on playing this season.

"If everything goes to plan, hopefully I can get back here the last part of the season," Sanford said. "I feel that'll be a good time for me to be able to step in and hopefully bring some energy and hopefully help the team out at the end of the year."

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