ST. LOUIS - The play was innocent enough.
Detroit won a face off to the left of Jake Allen and the puck went to Red Wings defenseman Mike Green, who was standing on the blue line. Green could have dumped the puck deep into the Blues' zone but instead chose to fire it towards the net, hitting Blues forward Jaden Schwartz square in the ankle.
Schwartz went down immediately and had to be helped off the ice.
"My ankle was pointed the wrong way and the puck just hit me in a freak spot where it was unfortunate luck," Schwartz told stlouisblues.com. "I knew right away something wasn't right. You just try to hope for the best."
After a medical evaluation when the team returned home, it was determined that Schwartz wouldn't need surgery - that was the good news - but that he would need to wait six weeks for the injury to heal.
It was a big blow to the Blues, who saw their offense and overall success dip without No. 17 in the lineup.
With Schwartz, the Blues were 20-8-2 this season and averaged 3.30 goals per game, which ranked seventh in the League. In the games since Schwartz was injured, the Blues are 9-10-1 and have averaged a League-worst 2.11 goals per game.
On Thursday morning, Schwartz was activated from injured reserve and Magnus Paajarvi was placed on waivers to make room.
With any luck, the early-season success the Blues enjoyed will return with Schwartz back in the lineup.
"He generates offense 5-on-5, he's helped us on the power play, penalty kill - he's an all-around type player," linemate Brayden Schenn said. "It's behind us now. We held our ground. This is like getting a huge acquisition to our team. We're getting a good player back."
"Not playing is never fun," Schwartz said. "It sucks not being with the guys and being able to help your team and battle with them. Especially with how close the standings are, you want to be able to help. That's past now but I'm excited to be back."
Despite missing 20 games, Schwartz remains third on the club in scoring with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) - trailing only Schenn (49 points) and Vladimir Tarasenko (46 points).
Schwartz brings more than just offense, though.
"When you put a player like that into your lineup, it shuffles some other people down and all of a sudden you're getting stronger matchups elsewhere in your lineup," Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "But more than anything else, it's his tenacity. The relentlessness that he plays each and every shift with, that's contagious to the rest of the group."
"I'm pumped," Schwartz said about returning. "The six weeks (I've been out) has felt long, but at the same time, it went faster than I think. I'm just excited to be with the guys again and help out."