After practice on Tuesday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Ondrej Kase and Nick Robertson, the play of Mitch Marner (0g, 1a) and John Tavares’ (0g, 2a) through four games, the team’s desire to make it harder on opposing goaltenders, and the plan in net for the weekend back-to-back.


What is Ondrej Kase’s status?

Keefe: He blocked a shot yesterday with his foot. He just needed to take the day today. We have a day off tomorrow. He will get assessed. We don’t have all of the information at this point. He may be good to go in practice on the next day, or it might be a day-to-day thing. We won’t know more until he gets more pictures and information.

Jack Campbell has played in every game. He left practice today. Is that just managing his workload?

Keefe: Yeah, him leaving today is just simply managing his workload. It was going to be a very heavy day today for goaltenders in terms of the number of shots and type of shots that were coming. We didn’t think it was necessary for him to go through that. He did a goalie session, the early part of the practice, and then we got him out of here. It is a day off tomorrow, and then he will get back to it after that.

It is important to manage your goaltenders. You try to avoid some things that are really player-centric with the drills you’re trying to do. Sometimes, you don’t need to put the goaltenders through that. We had the opportunity to give him most of today off. I think it serves the purpose well.

What was your reaction to Nick Robertson missing 10 weeks with a broken fibula?

Keefe: First, you feel for Nick. It is tough luck for him. He is coming off of a good camp. I know he was excited to have a good season. I had watched the first game of the Marlies, and I thought he looked good. It is very unfortunate and you feel for him. As a guy who works as hard as he does and is as committed as he is, it is tough to see that hapen.

I also know because of how hard he works and the commitment that he has, if anyone is going to work through that and bounce back, he is going to do that. He battled some injuries last season as well. This will be no different. As unfortunate as it is, these things happen. You have to find your way through it.

Is there anything he needs to do to make sure his development doesn’t suffer long term?

Keefe: First and foremost, it’s just taking care of his leg in order to heal. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. As unfortunate as it is, I think these things are quite common. I don’t think they are things that have long-term effects or anything of that nature.

What is your sense of where Mitch Marner’s frustration level stands with one point through four games?

Keefe: I sense no frustration. I think he is feeling good. Like I said last night, I think he has done a lot of really good things. He and Auston kind of picked up where they left off yesterday. Obviously, it didn’t go in for them, but I think the chemistry that they have is there.

There is a lot of attention on production and things of that nature — he is one of the top scorers in the entire league last season, and he consistently has been — but he also does a lot of really good things for us without the puck. I am not worried about the offensive side. It is going to come.

He is going to break out. Auston is going to break out. We have a number of players on our team — John [Tavares]. These guys are going to find their offense, and of course, we will benefit from that.

What have you thought of John Tavares’ game so far?

Keefe: Just like Mitch, I think he has been good. Defensively, there have been no issues there for me. Whether he is playing up with Mitch or last night playing with Will and Bunts, I thought the line was really good. It had a number of very good looks.

I have been happy with him. He was dominant in the faceoff circle, as he has been for most of the season here. Most of the time, you expect that from him, but last night, our whole team seemed to take it to another level. That is great to see.

Having David Kampf’s presence in terms of what it does with our centers and faceoffs puts two elite faceoff guys like Auston and John in an even better situation. We hope to continue to see some of those benefits.

I have no issues with any of our guys and how we have played here through four games.

You have had a few games where you have run into a really hot goalie. How do you approach battling through that frustration?

Keefe: For me, we have to focus on the things we can control. We can’t control the goaltender’s performance necessarily. We can control how difficult his game may be.

Focusing on last night, we generated a lot of scoring opportunities — a lot of very clean looks at the goaltender — but we don’t want them to always be so clean. We need other people to get around the net. We need to get some deflections. We need to get loose pucks in and around the cage.

There are a lot of things that we can do that can help influence things offensively for all of our lines. If you look at the type of goal that we did score last night, Bunts just drove the back post, we threw it in there, and good things happened for us. Sometimes, those are the types of things that need to go for you.

If you look at the number of clean looks we had — the ones Auston had, Rielly on the rebound opportunity, Willy was in alone a couple of times — those are the types of things that are going to go in the net. But I look at the bigger picture and some of the things we can do to try to make life a little bit harder on the goalies.

Is that what the focus of some of the drills was about today?

Keefe: That is part of it. Competing in that space, putting pucks into that area, trying to get your stick free, fighting for positioning — all of those things are a part of it for sure.

Part of what we did today is reflective of how the first four games have gone and trying to get some of our scoring going, but other parts of it are just continuing to lay out the foundation of things we want to work at as a team.

Something as simple as 2-on-1 execution is something we are talking a lot about. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to commit to it. A day after a game like this is a good opportunity. You can’t expect them to push too hard and be too competitive in terms of 5-on-5 situations, so a day like today is a good opportunity for that.

Based on his goals in practice, is Rasmus Sandin working his way up as a good option in the shootout?

Keefe: Yeah, he is for sure. We have been trying to work him in there. He and Morgan Rielly had two of our best goals today. They’re options for sure.

The Sharks play twice before they meet you on Friday as your team waits. Are you going to be watching both in preparation?

Keefe: Yeah, for sure, I’ll watch them when they are on TV. I still have to be a dad and run around with my kids and do all of that, but I will have a peek. Mainly, our staff is breaking those games down. When we get into the office, we are more focusing in on specific things.

It has been a bit of a funky schedule. If I remember correctly, we started last week on Wednesday and San Jose didn’t start on Saturday. It has kind of flipped here a bit now, but those are the ebbs and flows of the NHL schedule.

Is it safe to say Michael Hutchinson will receive one of the starts in the back-to-back?

Keefe: Yes.