After a perfect 3-0-0 start to the season last week, the Blues will spend the season's second week on a Canadian road trip. Coach Ken Hitchcock gave updates on the health statuses of several players Monday as the Blues prepare to face the Canucks Tuesday night in Vancouver, followed by games in Edmonton and Calgary.
After sustaining upper-body injuries in the Blues 3-2 home win over the Rangers Saturday night, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and center Kyle Brodziak will both make the trip to Vancouver, indicating there is a chance they will be good to go as early as Tuesday.
Center Jori Lehtera, also injured in that game, is not quite as close to a return to the ice as his teammates, and will not be with the Blues for the beginning of the road trip. Hitchcock left open the possibility that Lehtera could join the Blues later in the week, though an exact timetable on Lehtera’s return is unclear.
Despite the uncertain status of those players, the Blues did not consider it necessary to call up any extra bodies from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) due in part to the developing recovery of Jaden Schwartz, which has progressed significantly in recent days.
Schwartz injured his left elbow at the end of September and was originally expected to miss four weeks. He may make it back in fewer than three, however, as he’s been skating in practice for several days, and according to Hitchcock, may be available to return to game-action as early as Tuesday in Vancouver.
For Hitchcock and the Blues, Schwartz’s return would be a welcomed provision for an already potent group.
“He’s an important player, even at 80 percent last year he was a good player,” Hitchcock said of Schwartz. “Close to 100 percent, he’s going to be a real help for us. He’s exactly what we need. We saw it at practice today: his ability on the rush, his tempo and his compete-level is very impressive. When he’s ready to go, he’s going to be a big help.”
Schwartz missed a majority of last season due to injury, scoring just eight goals in 33 games after a 28-goal performance in 2014-2015. With the departures of veteran forwards in the offseason, the Blues hope to see Schwartz take another step forward in his production this season. It sounds like he’ll have the chance to do that a bit earlier than anticipated, which is great news for the Blues as they look to build on the hot start they have enjoyed without him.