After practice on Friday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the status of William Nylander as he navigates precautionary Covid protocol, changes to the lines and power-play units for Saturday night, and the callup of Joey Duszak to the taxi squad.
Can you update us on William Nylander’s situation?
Keefe: No real update other than he remains within the league’s protocols. He continues to follow along with that.
When do you expect William back?
Keefe: We are going to continue to monitor it. The expectation is that he is going to miss a minimum of seven days here. We will have to just kind of see how it goes.
What is your sense of how the group is responding to William’s absence under these circumstances? It is a tough time. What is your sense of the group?
Keefe: I think the group is fine. I think they feel comfortable with where everything is at. They understand what is happening. Our doctors and medical people have made us understand the way things have progressed here and what the situation is.
Other than not having Will around here, in terms of our environment in our facility, I think our guys feel relatively normal with how it has been. We continue to be smart with the protocols and everything, but nothing has changed in that sense. We, of course, are aware of Will’s situation and will continue to monitor how it progresses here.
What have you seen from the power play in practice and the impact of Nylander’s absence there?
Keefe: The power play looked good today. I was happy with it. We haven’t had a great deal of practice time here in the last little while. We wanted to make that more of a priority today. I thought both units looked really good.
What do you like about Zach Hyman with the Matthews and Marner group on the power play?
Keefe: We really like Hyman, just like Simmonds, at the net front. That is part of it. Another part is that it is a really subtle change between the skill set of Hyman and Simmonds on the power play.
With the lines, we have moved them around here. With Tavares being up with the one unit, having Hyman as well, when you get a power play, you are more likely to have fresh people if more people from one or at most two lines make up the unit. If you have it spread out where it is two or three lines, you are likely going to have someone who is fatigued starting the power play, and that is not optimal.
That is really a big part of it. Now that we have moved Simonds lower and Hyman higher with John in, it just flows better that way. There is not a whole lot to it other than that.
The five-forward look for the 5-on-3 — is that something you considered doing for a while, and if so, what is your thinking with that?
Keefe: I think we have a bit of a history with that, first of all. It is not anything entirely new. 5-on-3 is a pretty rare occurrence, so you kind of play it by ear. We went with five there. But today we didn’t go with five. It is always an option for us. As I said, it is something that we have done a fair bit since I have been here.
What is the thinking behind getting Joey Duszak up with the taxi squad?
Keefe: We have been giving guys the opportunity to get up here and get some reps with us in practice. Obviously, we sent Liljegren down for an opportunity to get him back and going in games with the Marlies, who are playing today.
We like to have eight defensemen for practice. It is good to get Joey up here. He has played very well for the Marlies to start the season from what I have seen and from what I have been told. It is a good opportunity for him to get a little bit of a taste of practice here today.
You moved the lines around. What was the thinking behind Alex Galchenyuk moving up and where you placed Zach Hyman today?
Keefe: Just wanted to take a look at some different things here. Not having Nylander breaks up that Tavares line that we had liked. It is just a chance for us to get a look at Galchenyuk, who has been playing very well and has seemed to pair well with John. Now that we know that works for us, we want to see what this would look like.