Schwartz returns to practice, appears ready to return to
lineup; Bortuzzo skates; Kyrou moves up; Sanford recalled
HAZELWOOD, Mo -- The Blues took to the ice with a full group of skaters ahead of a three-game Canadian trip that begins Wednesday in Montreal.
And by full group, that means everyone, including Jaden Schwartz, Robert Bortuzzo, Robby Fabbri, Nikita Soshnikov and Oskar Sundqvist.
Schwartz's availability was especially encouraging after the left winger missed the past two games with a right foot/ankle injury sustained last Thursday early in the first period of a 5-3 win against the Calgary Flames.
"Better," Schwartz said when asked how he was feeling. "It's doing better than it did a few days ago. Still kind of taking it day by day but it feels a lot better than it did Friday."
Schwartz took part in a full practice, skated in his usual spot on a line with Brayden Schenn and David Perron and was part of one of the power-play units.
"We're not sure yet," Schwartz said regarding his availability against the Canadiens. "We're going to see how it feels in the morning. Probably skate again in the morning and see how it feels.
"A little bit different pace out here than games. I felt OK today. I was moving around a little bit better than I thought. That's always a good sign."
Blues coach Mike Yeo agreed.
"We'll talk about practice today and have a skate tomorrow and make a decision after that," Yeo said. "We know the impact that 'Schwartzy' has on our team and how important that he is to our group. One step close to coming back in. I haven't talked to him yet after practice, but hopefully we can have him available for us tomorrow."
Schwartz was hit by a Vladimir Tarasenko shot and was in some pain from the outset. He was wincing immediately but stayed on the bench and returned for his next shift.
"I noticed it right away," Schwartz said. "You don't really know the extent of the injury. I obviously felt it and I wasn't really sure exactly what it was or how bad it was until we looked at it the next day.
"It's a little different when you have a boot on. You see how it feels that night and then the next day and you have a better idea."
Schwartz has had a history of bad luck when it comes to getting hit with pucks on the lower extremities. He missed 20 games last season when he was hit by a Mike Green dump-in shot in Detroit on Dec. 9, and missed seven games during the 2014-15 season when he broke a bone against the Los Angeles Kings blocking a shot.
"It's frustrating," Schwartz said. "A lot of it is bad luck. Pucks seem to hit different areas of you. It's frustrating, it's unlucky but hopefully but there's better luck moving forward.
"I don't like to think too much when I'm playing. I don't like to be safe. I like being aggressive, going into the dirty areas and working. If you're thinking about things like that, you're not going to be effective, so that doesn't bother me during the game."
* Bortuzzo skates -- Bortuzzo left Sunday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim early in the second period to a lower-body injury, something Yeo said was lingering since training camp when he was having some issues with his knee.
But Bortuzzo was back on the ice skating on a pairing with Jakub Jerabek.
"I was pleased with that," Yeo said. "I know 'Borts' was in for treatment there yesterday and things were feeling a little bit better. He's another guy yet I haven't talked to after practice. That was the plan. We'll see if he's available for tomorrow. But obviously him being in practice today is certainly a good sign."
* Fabbri, Soshnikov, Sundqvist all to travel -- The fact that Fabbri (groin), Soshnikov (concussion) and Sundqvist (concussion) are all on the trip -- albeit the first extended one -- is a good sign that the Blues want them to continue to work with the team instead of staying back and skating on their own.
Fabbri, who has also dealt with hip and back soreness stepping from two ACL surgeries to his left knee, hasn't played in a regular-season game since the initial injury on Feb. 4, 2017.
"Yeah, they're getting closer, and they need to continue to get worked in order to get over the hump here," Yeo said.
Assuming defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (knee, hip) is also on the trip, but he's not expected back until sometime in November.
* Kyrou moves up -- Rookie forward Jordan Kyrou keeps climbing his way, and he's reached the top.
Kyrou, a 2016 second-round pick, has played well in the early stages of his NHL career.
He began the season playing alongside Schwartz and Schenn, got some time with Alexander Steen and Tyler Bozak and on Tuesday, skated with Ryan O'Reilly and Tarasenko.
"It was awesome, both great players. I'm excited," Kyrou said. "Each game my confidence is growing. I'm starting to play more and more my game. I just need to continue to go out there and keep playing hard.
"... You just want to go out there and do the little things right and continue to grow your game every day. Just keep doing that."
The forward and defensive pairings at practice were:
Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-David Perron
Alexander Steen-Tyler Bozak-Pat Maroon
Ivan Barbashev-Robert Thomas/Zach Sanford-Sammy Blais
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Jordan Schmaltz
Jakyb Jerabek-Robert Bortuzzo
Kyrou, 20, has given Yeo every reason to continue to play him and give him more responsibilities and looks. Yeo has been impressed with his start.
"Yes I have. His speed's a factor," Yeo said. "His skill's a factor in every game. He's showing that heis understanding the game and trying to do the right things both with and without the puck. There's a big opportunity, a big challenge for him. We'd like to get him a look there with some of those guys like 'Vladi' and 'O'Ry', guys that can get him the puck. He played the one game in preseason with 'O'Ry' in Dallas and I thought he looked really good. I thought those two guys had some nice chemistry together. He's not up here just to fill in, he's up here to try and make those guys better and to use his skill to create and to be dangerous.
"He's got the speed and the skill. ... To me, he looks confident. He's played with good players every game and he's been able to play his game and he's been able to play with a number of different guys and to be effective."
Kyrou has just one assist on the season but it's a matter of time before the points come.
"You try not to worry about points," Kyrou said. "Eventually the points will start coming. I need to continue to go out there and do the little things right and continue to play hard
"... My biggest thing is confidence. Just need to go out there and do my thing. I know I can skate out there. I just want to go out there and do that."
* Sanford recalled, Thorburn assigned to San Antonio -- Forward Zach Sanford was recalled by the Blues on Tuesday, and they assigned veteran winger Chris Thorburn to San Antonio of the American Hockey League.
Sanford, acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington on Feb. 27, 2017, had two goals in four games with the Rampage.
"It's always nice to get that call," Sanford said. "... It's been pretty crazy. Stuff going on with family, going home and being up and down, kind of all over the country, but it's good to be back here. Hopefully I can take advantage of it and stay here for a while."
It's been a tough time for Sanford, who had to deal with the sudden passing of his father, Mike, recently.
"It's been tough at times," Sanford said. "My family and friends and especially teammates have been really good for me from that side. They've been helpful in every way they can be. That's made it a lot easier.
"It's been good (in San Antonio). First couple were still probably feeling out and the team trying to jell a little bit. The last two personally, I felt good. I thought I was playing my game, playing well. Hopefully I can just carry that up to here."
Sanford, who did not play in the NHL last season after a shoulder injury in training camp, was mixing in at practice on the fourth line at center with rookie Robert Thomas.
"The reports I got, especially the last couple games, he played very well moving his feet, using his big size and using his skill but using it to his strengths," Yeo said of Sanford. "Happy to have 'Sandy' back. He's a really smart player. It was really tough circumstances for him in training camp. We had him slated to get into more games than he did. It was tough getting him into that last game. First off, a lot on his mind. Secondly, he missed a lot of time. I don't know if it was necessarily a great read, but not a real fair evaluation on our part or for him. Happy to have him back.
"I think that he has the opportunity to be both (center or wing), but what I would say is, it's hard to find 6-foot-5 centermen in the NHL. I don't know that we necessarily have to pigeonhole anybody into that one particular spot, any time that a young player can get into the lineup, it's good for them, but when you're talking about centermen and guys you want to be centermen down the road, at some point you have to get them in there and work that position."
Sanford, who has eight points (four goals, four assists) in 39 NHL games, said the shoulder issues are completely behind him.
"Yeah, I think so. I'm feeling really good," Sanford said. "My shoulder's good and my conditioning feels pretty good. Strength's good too. Hopefully I can just stick to how I was playing and be able to help the team out up here.
"I think it's pretty normal for where I'm at now."
* Good time to get away -- Perhaps a good road trip will help the Blues shake their slow start.
Their 1-2-2 record isn't exactly what they were looking for with all the new additions to the roster this past offseason, but going into tough barns (Bell Centre in Montreal, Air Canada Centre in Toronto and Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg) and playing against good teams will help them gain the proper footing moving forward.
"Really good. It's a disappointing start. We're not going to sugarcoat that, but we're not going to hide from that," Yeo said. "I knew coming into the season with the expectations that we're going to have to manage some of this stuff. But it's a little bit of adversity. That's all it is. For us as a group, what's important is that we don't let circumstances dictate who we become. I think that we've had a goal right from the outset, right from the get-go here and we still believe that we're going to accomplish that goal. It's taken us a little bit longer to get going here. We're not quite on top of our game. That's OK. We're going to find it. We always do. We've always been a really good defensive team, we always will be. We're not on top of it right now. Last game was actually a lot better in that area. We only gave up 10 scoring chances in the game and that's a little more than what it should look like. We'll get closer and I think this road trip will be really good for us."