Schwartz questionable to doubtful for Saturday with foot injury; Schmaltz
brothers finally to square off; third line D pairing a revolving door for now
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Forward is "questionable to doubtful," according to Blues coach Mike Yeo for Saturday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Schwartz was hit on the right foot with a Vladimir Tarasenko shot early in the first period during a power play and it was evident that he clearly felt it after but finished the game and played 19 minutes and had an assist in the 5-3 win over Calgary on Thursday.
Schwartz did not practice Friday and with back-to-back games, it'll be something to keep an eye on for the weekend.
"He's got a lower-body injury that I would say will make him questionable to doubtful, I'm not sure which one," Yeo said. "We haven't been told that he's out for tomorrow, but certainly not something that we expect to be long-term, but question mark for tomorrow."
Schwartz has had a history of bad luck getting hit with pucks. Last season, he missed 20 games with a right ankle injury after blocking a shot by Detroit's Mike Green. In 2014, Schwartz sustained a broken right foot blocking a shot against the Los Angeles Kings from Drew Doughty.
"He's had some bad luck with that, but you know what, he's had a lot of success going to the net and unfortunately, that's a little bit of what could happen when you're there," Yeo said of Schwartz.
Skating on the second line left wing slot was Sammy Blais, who will likely slot in that spot should Schwartz miss any time.
"I think there might be a few different guys that get an opportunity to get some extra ice time with that," Yeo said. "We're obviously going to need somebody to step up. When you're losing a guy that plays power play, you're losing a guy that plays penalty kill, plays during big games and nights when you need him upwards of 20 minutes a night. Obviously that's a big role to fill.
"I think Sammy's played very well. I've been happy with his game. I think that he's found a way in every game to get some shifts and some opportunities with some different lines. We saw him out there with 'Vladi' and 'O'Ry' [Ryan O'Reilly] a couple times there last night and he's making plays. He looks confident going out there with those guys, which is big. His play without the puck is improving and has improved, but I think it's a good opportunity for him and I think he'll take advantage of it."
Blais had been playing with Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev on the fourth line, a line that has been effective despite the limited minutes.
"More physical for sure," Yeo said describing Blais' game. "It starts with he's come into camp in better shape. Because of that, I think he's moving better and he's playing with more bite, and I think some of that is confidence. It's sort of the progression for a lot of young guys. You look at the way things have gone for him, he started in the American (Hockey) League and was an up-and-down player. Now confidence-wise, he looks like he belongs. He looks like he feels like belongs, and that's more important whether we think he belongs. If he thinks he belongs and goes out and proves it and plays like it shift after shift. That's how you get here and that's how you stay here."
* Schmaltz vs. Schmaltz ... finally -- When the Blues and Blackhawks square off at United Center Saturday (7:30 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), it will be brother vs. brother, a matchup that has been anticipated for some time.
Blues defenseman Jordan Schmaltz will be in the lineup and oppose younger brother and Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz for the first time in a regular-season game together.
The Schmaltz brothers, both drafted in the first round by their respective teams, have opposed each other in the American Hockey League when Jordan played for the Chicago Wolves and Nick played for the Rockford IceHogs and once in a Blues-Blackhawks preseason game but never the regular season.
Whether it be injury or Jordan being out of the lineup, something always got in the way and kept it from being a happy occasion for parents Mike and Lisa.
"That's taken care of. Now let's just go play hockey, baby," Jordan said after practice Friday.
"We played against each other in Rockford when he was in Rockford and I was in Chicago," Jordan added. "Obviously matched lines when we played against them.
"It's funny. At the same time, it's still a hockey game, you've still got to do your job, but when you're lined up against your brother, you can almost not help yourself but laugh or smile. Once the puck drops, it's game on and hopefully get the better half of him."
Jordan is listed at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, while Nick is 6-0, 177, and if that loose puck is in the corner with the brothers converging, what happens?
"Business as usual," Jordan said. "I think we can have a laugh after the game, but I got him in the height and weight categories. So advantage older brother."
It was an easy choice what mom and dad would wear when Nick was the regular in the lineup in the Blues-Blackhawks matchups.
What will they do tomorrow when making the trip down from Madison, Wisconsin?
"I think they go neutral colors and sit back and watch the game and hope for the best for both boys," Jordan said.
But don't count on one of those custom made jerseys with the half and half style.
"I don't think you can pay my dad enough money or my mom enough money to wear one of those," Jordan said with a smile. "They're pretty low key. They'll sit back and watch the game and give us a big hug afterwards."
* Revolving defensive door -- The third defensive unit for the Blues has had a mix of players through the first three games.
Thursday, Jakub Jerabek made his debut with the team, playing alongside Robert Bortuzzo on the left side.
Friday at practice, it was Bortuzzo playing on the left and Schmaltz on the right.
Vince Dunn and Schmaltz played there on opening night against Winnipeg and Chris Butler was in there last Saturday against the Blackhawks and played very well.
"We really don't have a plan," Yeo said. "I know that Schmaltz will get into the lineup tomorrow. If certainly someone wants to jump up and grab the opportunity and establish themselves as somebody that can't come out of the lineup, we're OK with that. We don't need to keep revolving the door. Obviously we're going to need a number of guys. We always do through the course of the season, But I would say that we're still in the feeling-out process."
* Foot off the gas -- The term "foot off the gas" has been something heard too often in the Blues locker room.
It was heard again Thursday when the Blues seemed to put things in cruise control leading Calgary 5-1 after two periods before being outscored 2-0 in the final 20 minutes.
In three games, the Blues have been outscored 7-3 in the third period.
"I think we just quit playing in the third period," Yeo said. "Whether we were satisfied with the 5-1 lead or thought that it was going to be enough and just put it on cruise control in the third, you have to be smart for sure. That's first and foremost with what you do with the puck, making sure you stay disciplined, making sure that you're not making high risk plays, but you have to continue to play. You have to find a way to execute and get to the offensive zone. That's the best way to kill the clock is in the offensive zone. And in order to do that, you have to check hard, and I didn't think our checking was nearly hard enough. I thought we were just standing around watching and just trying to get through our shifts as opposed to continuing to play and play with purpose and all the little things, the urgency and all the little things. Obviously when you get an offensive team time and space and momentum, it'll come back to bite you."
* Fabbri, Soshnikov, Gunnarsson, Sundqvist all inching closer -- Yeo didn't have a time frame on when any of Robby Fabbri (groin), Nikita Soshnikov (concussion), Carl Gunnarsson (knee, hip) and Oskar Sundqvist (concussion) would be available to return to action, but all were on the ice again and got in a full practice Friday.
Gunnarsson is on injured-reserve and isn't expected back until November. The others are literally day to day.
"Getting closer. That's all I can say," Yeo said. "I think they're all getting antsy, as are we anxious to get those guys back. When we talk about our depth, we still have a few guys that are close to returning for us, so we're going to keep getting stronger."