Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the final game of preseason.
On the outlook for Ilya Mikheyev:
We will know more on Monday. It is not looking like it is going to be short-term at this point.
On the potential long-term loss of Mikheyev:
It is a big loss. He has had a good camp. He is a good player for us. He does a lot of things for us.
We have a lot of depth. We have had a lot of guys who have had good camps. We have guys who are with the Marlies who had good camps. We have guys who are still with us that didn’t play tonight but have had good camps.
Like with any other player, it is a great opportunity for others to step up here.
On Engvall’s performance:
I was happy to see him play again today. I believe this is only his second preseason game. We didn’t get to see a lot of him because of his injury through camp. Any time that happens, especially for a guy like him who is looking to take a step here … He has been an in and out of the lineup guy, and he still hasn’t made the opening night roster out of training camp in his time.
He is trying to establish himself there. I thought he did a really good job asserting himself tonight. Once Mikheyev left the lineup, now we have three left wingers and are moving things around. He, Bunting, and Ritchie are playing a lot more. I thought all three of them had really strong games today.
It is good to see Pierre finish now two games in a row with a power-play goal. That can’t do anything but help the confidence offensively. I thought he skated and worked. He is definitely one of those guys who is going to get more opportunity now.
On the team’s camp and preseason overall:
I think we have had a really good camp and preseason. The effort was right there where we wanted it to be. If we look at the games we have played, we started here on home ice for the first game on day three of camp. We really liked what we got in that game. We played three consecutive games on the road. I thought we did a really nice job there.
Today, it’s obviously the lineup that is closest to what the opening night lineup will look like. I thought it took us some time today to really establish our game and find our rhythm as a group. For a lot of the guys, it was the first time playing as a group. Even though they have been around and all of that, tonight was the first game, if I am not mistaken, that David Kampf has played with William Nylander — stuff like that.
We had some guys who have been around each other but haven’t played in the same game. It affects your rhythm as a group — power play, penalty kill, the lines. It took us a little bit here today, but I thought we really found our groove in that second period.
We challenged the guys to finish the preseason off appropriately here, go into a day off tomorrow, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and get back to work as we turn the page and get at it for real here.
On John Tavares’ camp coming off of the injury last playoffs:
It was on my mind as we went into camp. We talked about it, and it was part of why we put him in the first game. “Let’s just get at it.”
To be honest, since the first game, I hadn’t even thought about it once. He has just given us no reason to think about it. I think he has had a terrific camp, both in how he has performed and how he has led the group.
On the changes Dean Chynoweth has made to the PK:
Very encouraged — the adjustments that he is asking our guys to make, some of it is different and unique, but also the way he has challenged the group. He has cast a wider net and allowed other opportunities for players to get a chance and get some reps so that we are prepared here as the season moves along.
We have lost Mikheyev here for a period of time, but we have other guys who can take on those responsibilities. I think that is really important and healthy for a team. Dean, despite coming into a new situation, has been willing to try those types of things.
I think our penalty kill has terrific potential here. It was not good enough last season with the results, both with in the players we have added and also the players that are returning, I think our penalty kill was probably underrated last season with some of the results. If you just look at the games that Jack Campbell played, I think we were up around 90% on the penalty kill, which would have been the #1 penalty kill in the NHL over the course of the season.
We think there are a lot of good things about our group, and Dean is really accentuating that.
On whether he accomplished everything he set out to accomplish in training camp:
I think so. I am happy with it. I am happy with the plan we have put in place. We really think it was a valuable week for us — we had three preseason games this week and got some good work in there, we had good practice days, and we had time spent out in Gravenhurst as a group as we shifted into a one-group team.
I am really happy with the plan we put together, how it was executed, the work that the players put in, the work the staff put in in preparation, and applying the plan and the things we asked the players to do. It was really good. Now, we turn the page and get to work for real.
On whether the final few cuts are obvious to him:
It is an interesting situation. Some of the decisions are frankly controlled by the salary cap. In that case, some of them are quite obvious. The situation now changes depending on what happens with Ilya Mikheyev’s situation. All of that affects every decision. That is just the reality of the flat-cap world.
On the impact Wayne Simmonds can make this season:
I think he can have a great impact for us. You saw it through this camp. He played here tonight. I am not certain on this, but I think it may have been his first home game of the preseason. He played in two games for sure in Ottawa that come to mind where we have a less experienced group. I thought he was very vocal, played with passion, and led the group that way.
I am excited for him to play games on home ice in front of our fans. He is adjusting and finding himself in a different role than he has been in, really, in his career. There is an adjustment period there. We have all seen Jason Spezza go through that here in the last couple of seasons.
On Simmonds dropping the gloves with Sabourin after Sabourin went after Holl:
I think he has an important player for our group for sure, and we are happy to have him.
I thought he handled it well. They didn’t make a spectacle of it. It just sort of happened as part of the game. In a preseason game like this, I don’t know that he needs to be fighting guys like that or anything of that nature, but that is part of who he is and what he does. We have to respect that. I didn’t think much of it, really.
On Matthews’ status for Wednesday:
Because of the nature of today, his name didn’t really come up. He wasn’t really on my mind. Obviously, it is going to be an important factor for us as we come through tomorrow’s day off. By Monday, we will have a better sense of where he is at. I haven’t had those discussions since returning from Gravenhurst.