After practice on Thursday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Frederik Andersen, the team’s approach to the power play, Zach Hyman’s elite forechecking ability, and his team’s ability to keep the opposition below 30 shots per game consistently this season.
Practice Lines – April 1
Hyman – Matthews – Marner
Galchenyuk – Tavares – Nylander
Thornton – Kerfoot – Spezza
Mikheyev – Engvall – Simmonds
Barabanov – Brooks – Sabourin
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Marincin – Liljegren
Power Play Units
Matthews – Tavares – Marner
Nylander – Thornton – Spezza
How relieving is it to know Jack Campbell was able to practice right after a game? Is there any update on Frederik Andersen?
Keefe: Relief is not the right word. It is nice to have him out there, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it relief. We have been going along with a plan with him. I have never been too concerned about it in terms of how we were managing it, whether he took a day off or not today.
The update on Freddy is that he did have a follow-up appointment. The feedback I have been given is that he is progressing well. We will continue to monitor him and re-assess him next week.
You are not seeing Frederik Andersen as available for another week?
Keefe: He is not going to join us on this trip.
Has he been on the ice at all during these recent days?
Keefe: No, he hasn’t.
What was the focus on the power play at practice today?
Keefe: Continuing to build on the things that we have been trying to do here. Probably the biggest focus was just on re-organizing our units. I think we have really gotten away from what has gotten successful at the start of the season. We have gone through different phases here. We have had to make a bunch of adjustments to account for injuries that we had.
We have really been kind of chasing it in the last handful of games. We changed a number of different things. Last night, we tried to really go with taking the two pieces from each unit — Matthews and Marner, Tavares and Nylander — and putting them together. We tried that yesterday. We didn’t like the way that it went.
We are just really focusing now on getting ourselves back to what our identity was at the start of the season: Two true units that are going to be fresh, are going to have legs, are going to have urgency, are going to push and compete with each other for the opportunity to get out on the ice.
That is part of it, and then we are just trying to get the puck snapping around and feeling good.
We all know about Zach Hyman’s work ethic. Beyond that, what makes him so effective in puck battles?
Keefe: He is very strong, but he also is very intelligent with how he goes about it. He establishes body positioning earlier. If you take the combination of someone who is very strong physically, has the work ethic to get to good spaces, and then strategically positions himself to seal off the defender so he gets access to the puck, I think that is the biggest thing.
It is all of those little pieces coming together. There is a lot to it if you are going to be an elite forechecker like he is. It is not just working hard and skating fast. It is stick positioning, body positioning, competitiveness — all of those pieces coming together.
You guys have been consistently been holding teams under 30 shots this season. Where do you think the biggest gains have been made in order to achieve the improvements in that area?
Keefe: I would think it is just the overall commitment the team has shown when we lose possession of the puck. I think we have always, over my time here, been a team that has the puck a fair bit. Even last season, we had the puck a lot — really, as much as anybody in the league.
We have improved now when the puck leaves our hands in how we work to get it back — either to get it back quickly or to have structure in place to prevent it from getting to our net, and certainly from dangerous areas. I would say that has been the biggest area for us for sure.
Calling up Adam Brooks for the trip — is that a gesture to have him with the team in his hometown these last couple of days and give him some time with his family, maybe?
Keefe: No, I wouldn’t say that is the case. We brought him here because we thought, if something happened on this trip and he got the chance to play, he would be a guy who would we want to have around.
With traveling into the different cities now with the protocols, it is not what it used to be in terms of being able to spend some time with family or things like that. Certainly, you are not playing in full buildings or anything where people are attending games. It is far different. Those kinds of considerations didn’t come into play in this case.