The long-awaited return of Jaden Schwartz has arrived as the forward has been activated from injured reserve and is days away from a return.
That return is likely to come Friday in Florida, a little less than four months after Schwartz fractured his ankle in a late-October practice. It has been 15 weeks since a surgical procedure was performed to correct the issue.
The injury, which happened on Scottrade Center ice, occurred when the forward slipped during a practice drill and collided with the net. A surgical procedure was needed less than 24 hours later and the forward was forced to sit for 49 games.
“I knew it was pretty serious,” Schwartz said in an article posted on the Blues’ website. “It was the most painful injury I’ve ever had.”
Despite missing all but seven games this season, Schwartz still has more points than four other current roster players, as he posted four assists prior to the injury.
“He looks good,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “This is several days in a row where he has looked like a normal hockey player.”
Schwartz has been participating in full-team practices for a few weeks. He returned to the ice in early January to begin skating on his own.
“It feels pretty good,” said Schwartz. “It was a long process.”
The Blues have historically had far more success with the 23-year-old in the lineup. Most recently, they have won 10 of the last 13 games in which Schwartz has suited up, while averaging over three goals per game. The club is struggling offensively this season, averaging just 2.38 goals per game, which is 24th in the NHL. Schwartz should provide a significant offensive boost.
“It’s good to see all the guys getting back on the ice,” said forward Alexander Steen.. “We haven’t been healthy at all this year. It’s nice to see guys starting to come back.”
Schwartz has been inching closer and closer to a return for the last week, but didn’t want to rush the final stages of his recovery.
“I didn’t want to go in and hurt the team,” said Schwartz. “I want to make sure I will be able to do most of everything.”
The winger is expected to slot into the lineup with either Paul Stastny or Alexander Steen centering his line. Hitchcock alluded to Schwartz playing with Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko a few weeks ago, but last week offered up the option of the forward playing with Steen and David Backes.
“I want him either playing with Stastny or Steen,” said Hitchcock. “That’s where he is going to end up.”
However, there is also a chance that Schwartz is reunited with Jori Lehtera and Tarasenko, a line that found much success a year ago.