Jaden Schwartz sighting: and a potential return for Thursday

St Louis Blues v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 26: Jaden Schwartz #17 of the Seattle Kraken skates in his 700th NHL career game during the second period against the St. Louis Blues at Climate Pledge Arena on January 26, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Left winger and veteran Jaden Schwartz returned to the ice on Wednesday at Kraken Community Iceplex, signifying a step closer to a much-valued return as the Seattle Kraken have inched closer to playoff elimination than a playoff spot. 

Schwartz, nursing an upper body injury which tracks with previous health issues, was last seen in a 3-0 loss to Winnipeg on March 8, trade deadline day. He left the game in the first period, after no visible contact that was taken on his last shift. 

That return means Schwartz is potentially back in place, who admitted to a group of reporters on Wednesday that he’s hoping to return Thursday night after one more trial run in Thursday’s morning skate, and back with teammates where the essence of camaraderie can’t be underrated. 

“When you’re missing continuous games too and it’s happened a few times, it’s frustrating,” said Schwartz. “You can’t control it. But you do what you can to get back as fast as you can and do your work.” 

He returned to the ice visibly in full stride with new linemates, centered by Jared McCann and flanked by Andre Burakovsky on the right wing. That move, while balanced with Burakovsky’s game that is seemingly thawing out with more point production and health, carries heavy weight with McCann back to the center position. 

“(McCann’s) been awesome,” said Schwartz. “Whether he’s on the wing or center, I don’t know which he likes more – he’s pretty good at both. I think at the center, he’s able to get a little more speed through the neutral zone and use his crossovers that way. He’s dangerous all over the ice.” 

The loss in the lineup of Schwartz, along with Vince Dunn, can’t be understated with terrible timing. Dunn hasn’t been seen since a win in Calgary on Mar. 4 when he took a high hit from Martin Pospisil. His deft puck movement, power play proficiency, and point production have been out of action ever since. Schwartz, known more for the “little things” and leadership, including a resounding front-of-the-net presence, is finally getting back on track. 

His production and presence have generated results. He missed all but 37 games two seasons ago, and the Kraken were realistically out of the playoffs by Christmas. He played in 71 games last season, and the Kraken made the playoffs. He didn’t miss a postseason game, and they forced Dallas into Game 7 in the second round. He's 5-1 in game seven situations for his career, and has a Stanley Cup ring. This season, he only has 47 games with 11 goals and 23 points (15 of them have come in Kraken wins). 

The unfortunate part for the Kraken in this potential return: it’s in the middle of a week where the playoffs are less of a conversation at this point, and the road ahead is more about the big picture. The Kraken are 11 points out with 15 games remaining and presented with a 0.6 percent chance of making the playoffs as of Thursday, according to moneypuck.com. 

Schwartz was asked about how leadership makes a difference in the remainder of the regular season schedule. 

“I think it’s important to keep building and keep working on things, and being committed to the little things,” said Schwartz. 

“Committed to each other. Committed to bringing our best every day. It doesn’t matter what happened the day before and what’s going around the league. Just making sure we’re doing our part, being prepared, being a pro, and sticking to our culture and doing the little things.” 

Should Schwartz return against the Vegas Golden Knights, who hold the last spot and have geared up for another playoff run by trading for Anthony Mantha, Noah Hanifin and (soon-to-be-taken-out-of-the-mothballs) Tomas Hertl, it will be a significant add. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol understands the impact. 

“We all know the importance about the things he brings to our hockey team as well as the experience and leadership,” Hakstol said. “That was a great step for him (on Wednesday). We’re not going to run before we walk here. It was a good day for him today. 

“We’ll evaluate where we’re at tomorrow morning.” 

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