The Blues are expected to get one of their top forwards back at some point this week.
After a rough win Saturday against the New York Rangers that resulted in injuries to three players (centers Jori Lehtera and Kyle Brodziak and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson), the team could get an unexpected but much-needed boost later this week. Forward Jaden Schwartz, who has missed the first three games of the season and was initially expected to miss the entire month of October, practiced in full on Monday and could be ready to return to the lineup at some point this week.
Schwartz participated in the Blues’ morning skate on Saturday, but his rapid return to full-contact activity after an elbow injury suffered in training camp was very much a surprise. After he practiced alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen on Monday, NHL.com’s Lou Korac relayed that coach Ken Hitchcock hopes Schwartz will be used on the team’s upcoming three-game road trip to Western Canada:
In all likelihood, Schwartz will get a few more practices or morning skates under his belt before returning to game action, and it’d probably be most realistic to expect him back for Thursday’s game in Edmonton.
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Whenever he ultimately returns, Schwartz’s skill at both ends of the ice will be a major asset for the Blues. Over a career that’s lasted just more than four seasons, Schwartz has averaged 24 goals and 30 assists per 82 games. His only real issue has been staying healthy.
Of course, once Schwartz, Lehtera, and Brodziak all return–and if there are no other injuries to forwards before then–the Blues will need to make a difficult call on who they want to keep as their final forward. Magnus Paajarvi and Ty Rattie were relatively neck-and-neck throughout the offseason and preseason, and one of them will have to be passed through waivers as the Blues try to get the chosen player back to the minor leagues. While both are making rather minimal salaries, both players are on one-way contracts, so it won’t be an easy decision either way.
Paajarvi has played two games so far this season, while Rattie has played none, and the Swedish winger has gotten off to a solid start, scoring a goal in his first game of the season while quickly developing some chemistry with former Edmonton Oilers teammate Nail Yakupov. Rattie is making less money, has less experience, and is less versatile in terms of what roles he can play in a lineup, but many believe that he has more long-term potential than Paajarvi.