The Blues will live dangerously for the near future, as they’ve returned Jordan Schmaltz to the AHL and will roll with just six defensemen.
It’s been a quick fall from grace for St. Louis Blues rookie defenseman Jordan Schmaltz. After making his postseason debut in the Blues’ Game 1 victory over the Minnesota Wild last Wednesday, Schmaltz was a healthy scratch for the past three games as Robert Bortuzzo returned to the lineup.
With the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, about to begin their own postseason run on Thursday night against the Charlotte Checkers, the Blues apparently decided that it was in Schmaltz’s best interest to get some game reps in, so they assigned Schmaltz to the Wolves on Thursday morning.
With Schmaltz back in the AHL, the Blues have just six defensemen left on their NHL roster, which is a highly unusual situation for a team in the playoffs. If a d-man suffers an injury during pregame warmups–an occurrence that is very infrequent but has happened in the past–the Blues will be forced to utilize a 13-forward, five-defenseman lineup.
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They’ve shown the ability to win with that type of unusual arrangement in the past, as they did on January 20 of last year when Colton Parayko got sick and GM Doug Armstrong forgot to activate Carl Gunnarsson from injured reserve. But in the high-intensity environment that is the NHL playoffs, one would think they’d want to guarantee their ability to have six healthy defensemen, particularly when they’ve got injury-prone players like Gunnarsson and Bortuzzo on the roster.
NHL teams are allowed to make four call-ups from the trade deadline until the time that their AHL affiliate’s season ends. With the Wolves in the playoffs, the Blues are allowed to make one more call-up from the Wolves while the AHL club’s season is still going, so they could theoretically recall Schmaltz or another defenseman if they decide to put a priority on depth once again. The Wolves’ season won’t be over until Sunday at the earliest–and it’s highly possible that it’ll last longer, considering the stacked roster that they’ve assembled–so the Blues could be running short on defensemen for quite a while.
In addition to the aforementioned playoff game, Schmaltz played in nine regular-season games for the Blues this season, collecting two assists while posting an even rating. He also played in 42 games for the Wolves, scoring three goals while adding 22 assists and posting a plus-4 rating.
With Schmaltz back in the AHL, the Wolves have 11 defensemen on their roster for tonight’s game in Charlotte. It’ll be interesting to see which blueliners suit up for the contest.