ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It was the second practice in a row for Jaden Schwartz as a full participant with his St. Louis Blues teammates. But Tuesday night’s game won’t be the awaited return for the forward, says head coach Mike Yeo.
“Just want to make sure he feels comfortable,” Yeo told media, at Monday’s morning skate. “Medically he’s cleared and he’s ready and obviously it’s just a matter of making sure conditioning and timing wise that he’s ready.”
Schwartz participated in every aspect of practice including “battle drills,” Yeo said, and often was working on a line with Brayden Schenn and Alex Steen.
“When he’s ready to come back we’ll gladly take him back,” Steen says. “But until then he’s just got to get some reps in and feel like he gets his legs back under him.”
Schwartz is still third in total points (35) for St. Louis, behind on the All-Star Schenn and Tarasenko, and he still has the team’s best +/- (23). Before his right ankle injury on December 9, Schwartz ninth in the NHL in scoring and on pace for 38 goals and 96 points, which would be career highs.
The Blues were 20-8-2 and seen as a top-5 team in the NHL, they now sit third in the Central Division, four and three points behind the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators, respectively.
Schwartz’s return practice has brought extra “energy” that only the 25-year-old could provide, Yeo says. When his return to game action happens that he doesn’t expect Schwartz’s to immediately return to his original scoring pace, “but wouldn’t be surprised either.”
“You don’t just evaluate (Schwartz’s) game on goals and assists,” Yeo says. “It’s his work ethic, his tenacity that’s infectious to the rest of the group. It’s the way that he kills penalties, the way that he plays against top players, the momentum that he brings.”
Captain Alex Pietrangelo compared Schwartz’s month and a half absence to his couple of weeks in early December, saying it took him a while to get back to his normal game. But like Yeo, believes Schwartz might just be a different player.
“A player like that, might not take as long as you think,” Pietrangelo says.
Schwartz was not in the locker room after practice.