Schwartz set to return from broken ankle for Blues
Feb. 10, 2016
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Starving for offense, the St. Louis Blues are about to get one of their top skill players back.
Jaden Schwartz was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday and is expected to be in the lineup at Florida on Friday.
"This is what I love to do," Schwartz said. "To be able to get back out on the ice and play is exciting."
The 23-year-old Schwartz has missed 49 games since fracturing his left ankle during practice on Oct. 23. He has four assists and a plus-4 rating in seven games. It's been a gradual process adding to the practice workload. The biggest test has been reacting to traffic and getting bumped around.
"Your foot's locked in a boot for six weeks, you don't have much movement so you've got to get that back to skate like you did before," Schwartz said. "I want to go in and be ready to play, so the ankle shouldn't be something I'm thinking about."
Coach Ken Hitchcock cautioned several times not to expect instant results. For the first handful of games, the plan calls for Schwartz to be used only in even-strength situations.
"We've got to tap the breaks," Hitchcock said. "He's going to have his hands full just keeping up."
But Hitchcock also noted the potential.
"When he's up to speed, he brings instant, quick offense that's hard to find," the coach said. "He's a hungry scorer."
Schwartz, a first-round pick in 2010, had 28 goals and 63 points for third-best on the team last season. He is being reunited on the second line with Jori Lehtera and All-Star Vladimir Tarasenko, who is among the NHL leaders with 26 goals.
"For sure, it's always nice when your friend comes back and we'll be happy playing together again," Tarasenko said.
In 214 career regular-season games, Schwartz has 139 points.
"He can do it all," Lehtera said. "You need those kind of guys."
The Blues, who are third in the West in the points race, have been held to one goal or less in five of their last six games. They lost 2-1 in a shootout to Winnipeg on Tuesday night that led to harsh words in Hitchcock's postgame news conference.
"You have to work, you have to compete when you have the puck and not be discouraged because you're getting checked," Hitchcock said after the game. "There's a reason why we're scoring just one goal."
On Wednesday, Hitchcock presided over a brisk workout that emphasized taking better advantage of scoring opportunities.
"It wasn't long but it was a work day, it was a competitive day," Hitchcock said. "They did exactly what was needed."
St. Louis was 11th in the Western Conference in scoring, leaning heavily on goalie Brian Elliott. They were often forced wide by the Jets, the lone goal coming from defenseman Colton Parayko, and also struggled in the shootout when they failed to get off a shot in two of four attempts.
"I don't think it's that far off," captain David Backes said. "A few bounces here or there, you get that good feeling, but it's not going to come easy."