Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Schwartz could return as early as Thursday

Left wing has missed 20 games with right ankle 
injury has been skating with team since Sunday

ST. LOUIS -- The sight of No. 17 on the ice for the Blues has been noticeable in practice in recent days.

It's also a welcomed sight.

Jaden Schwartz could soon be in the lineup for the Blues, perhaps as early as Thursday.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz could return as soon as Thursday when the Blues host the
Colorado Avalanche.

Schwartz could return to the lineup for the when they host the Colorado Avalanche in the second game of a four-game homestand.

Schwartz has missed the past 20 games with a right ankle injury sustained Dec. 9 at the Detroit Red Wings after blocking a shot.

"I feel pretty good," Schwartz said. "It's been a long process, but I feel like in the last week I've made some strides. I started off slow on the ice and started pushing it more lately, so it's feeling a lot better.

"I feel close. I'm not sure yet about [Thursday] but I'm close. I feel like my speed's getting back and the game legs are close."

Blues coach Mike Yeo said the decision for when Schwartz returns is up to him.

"We have to make sure that he feels sure," Yeo said. "Another good day today, as per usual, we won't discuss our lineup for tomorrow, but we'll see how he feels tomorrow morning.

"I would say we have a spot in our lineup when he says he's ready to go. Medically he's definitely been cleared. Physically, in our eyes, we feel confident that he's ready to go and obviously the caliber of player he is, we're anxious to have him back. Now it's just a matter of him saying he feels right. We don't want to put him in a bad spot, we don't want to pressure him into it. It's got to be something he feels he's ready for, but again, we definitely wouldn't put him into a bad position."

Schwartz is third on the Blues with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists). St. Louis went 20-8-2 with him in the lineup; the Blues are 9-10-1 since he's been out. Schwartz is tied for fifth in the NHL at plus-23.

"You just realize how big of a piece he is to our team," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said of Schwartz. "We're excited to have him back out there for sure. We're looking forward to his return. Hopefully it's soon.

"Just skating with us is another big step. I think skating's kind of a different nature of the beast in anything, even in just riding a bike. When you can do things on the ice and conditioning on the ice, it's different for sure. It's good for him and us as a whole."

Schwartz was injured when he blocked a shot off the stick of Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green.

Schwartz immediately went down in pain and after a moment on his knees, needed help off the ice. He would not be seen again on a sheet of ice for more than five weeks. The Blues said two days after the injury Schwartz would be reevaluated in six weeks.

"Yeah, I've had a couple injuries, feet and ankles. I knew something was wrong," Schwartz said. "I didn't know the extent of the injury, but when I took my skate off, it was swelled up pretty good and I couldn't move it so I knew that something definitely wasn't quite right.

Considering how well he was playing with Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko forming one of the most feared lines in the NHL at the time had to be tough to take.

"I don't really think about that," Schwartz said. "Injuries are tough; you never want to get hurt. Unfortunately, it's part of the sport. Freak injuries happen, injuries happen to everyone. Whether you're playing good or bad, it sucks, but I certainly thought I was playing pretty good at the time, but things like that happen."

It marks the second time in two seasons Schwartz has had to deal with an ankle injury. He broke his left ankle in a gruesome injury during a drill getting tangled up in the webbing of the net on Oct. 23, 2015. Schwartz missed 49 games that season but this injury is not as serious and will enable Schwartz to get back to 100 percent with less time needed.

"This one, I didn't need surgery," Schwartz said. "I can't remember how long I was out the last time, but it was longer than this one. I think this one's a little different as far as that and the rehab's been quicker. I was able to start working out sooner, which is helping me right now. I'm working on the strength and the mobility. I think compared to the last one, this one was ... I don't know if you can say better injury but less serious and I'm obviously able to get back in my skates a little bit quicker.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (left) celebrates with teammates after a goal during a 6-1
win over Detroit on Dec. 9, the same game as Schwartz's ankle injury.

"It snuck in between my padding is. The doc said they haven't seen an injury or a puck hit someone like that. It was just unlucky. Just wearing a little extra stuff now so it doesn't happen again. ... Just a millimeter a different way and (it's) a different result."

No doubt Schwartz will make the Blues better.

"No question," Yeo said. "Good players make the players around them better and so he has that ability."

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