Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after practice on Tuesday, discussing the team’s win over the Predators coming out of the break, Jason Spezza’s return to Dallas on Wednesday, William Nylander setting a career-high in goals, and Frederik Andersen’s bounce-back performance in Nashville.
What did you see from the team for the better part of 40 minutes last night to shut the other team down and minimize turnovers?
Keefe: There were definitely real good segments. We looked at some of those this morning. There were also some not-so-good [segments]. We’ve got to do a better job putting it together for a full 60 minutes. It is not an easy task. Like I said yesterday, it’s the first game coming back after a long break. Looking at how we finished, to just think that we were going to flip a switch and get it all fixed probably would be unrealistic. It was another day today to regroup and another practice day. We expect to take another step tomorrow.
Anything special planned for Jason Spezza heading back into Dallas?
Keefe: Hopefully, we can get another good effort and another good result. That would be good.
What have you noticed most about Jason this year in terms of the role he has played for you?
Keefe: Well, it was really evident for me right from the start just in terms of the value of having someone like that on your bench just to speak to your team and have the confidence to be vocal and talk, and also just the relationships with officials and respect from the opposition. All of those types of things you get in this league — maybe not so much in other leagues — and everybody knows who everyone is and there is a certain level of respect that I think can help.
He has contributed for us as a player as well. We’ve had injuries and we’ve had to move him up and move him around the lineup. He’s dealt with that well. He’s helped us on the power play. He has been a very serviceable player for us in many ways.
William Nylander has already established a career-high in goals and is on pace for 38. Do you see the potential for him to continue to produce at that rate? Is he riding a hot streak? How do you see him from a goal-scoring perspective?
Keefe: Certainly, I think there is opportunity for him to keep growing. From my perspective, he is a very dangerous and talented offensive player. The more opportunities he gets, he has the ability to make good on them. I don’t see this as a hot streak necessarily. Every player does have streaks where it goes in for them, but I think this is more what Will is capable of.
Do you think playing with John Tavares has gotten him more into a shooting mindset? John is a shooting, too, but Auston was such a triggerman. Has it opened things open for him?
Keefe: I haven’t thought of that much, but it is an interesting and perhaps accurate perspective. I think also that Will seems comfortable in who he is and what he is doing. He has made good on his chances. One thing that has changed for him is his presence on the power play and playing up on that first unit. I think the combination of getting the extra points and goals he gets from that, and also just the regular rhythm of playing those guys… My goal is to have him really be a part of that core of that group and hopefully it would leak into other parts of his game. I think the results have been there.
Did you see any signs of rust in Jake Muzzin last night with the layoff he had?
Keefe: I thought he was back to normal for the most part. I think all of our players had a degree of rust, including the opposition. There were probably a few pucks and plays he would like to have back or do differently, but his presence was felt by us in the room, on the bench, and on the ice. Looking back at it, he had a number of really good touches of the puck as well. It was nice to have him back, for sure.
Your third and fourth line centers last night with Pierre Engvall and Frederik Gauthier — how did they augment what the other lines were doing?
Keefe: I really thought especially in the second half of the game, those lines really came on. That really helped us. It helped us just keep the momentum going. We are trying to build positive sequences and really control the game. You need to be able to sustain play one shift after the next. You also want to be able to set up your top lines in good spots. When your third and fourth group is out there, they need to have positive shifts. They were able to do that. I thought both those lines were really good, especially considering that with the loss of Kapanen, we had to move things around and we were playing everybody in different spots. They all got better as the game wore on.
Are you optimistic Kasperi Kapanen will be in for tomorrow?
Keefe: Yeah, I am optimistic both in watching him and talking to him. It seems like he has recovered well through the night and is feeling better today. He has got more mobility and strength. He got through practice with no issues. As long as it continues that way, he will be in tomorrow.
Have you noticed anything different about Frederik Andersen since he came back? Does he seem fresher? It was a bit of a confidence boost going to his first All-Star game. Do you see that helping a player?
Keefe: I think it certainly would help a player — the combination of the rest and a little bit of a change of scenery, and also just being in the spotlight as he deserves to be with that group of players. That can help. I had spent some time with him after our last game before we went on a break and wanted to talk to him about a few things and give him a chance to think about some things and kind of reset himself. All indications since he’s come back are that that has happened and he is in a good place. I thought he was excellent yesterday. I thought he was real good and competitive in our practice today. We’ll keep him rolling here.
Was that with you, Freddy, and Steve Briere?
Keefe: It was the three of us, yeah.