After practice on Tuesday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek, and Ondrej Kase as well as the team’s recent run of positive results and the decision to get Joey Anderson into the lineup on Wednesday versus Colorado.
What are the updates on the injured players?
Keefe: Joey Anderson will play for us tomorrow night. Petr Mrazek had a full practice. It looked like everything went well and he’ll continue to progress. The goal here now is to just build up enough of a workload to where he feels confident in playing games. The intention is that he continues to ramp up, he will get some action with the Marlies this weekend and we will take it from there.
Is there any update on Ondrej Kase?
Keefe: He skated this morning. That went well. He is going to progress into our morning skates, be with our guys, and take it from there. He is not going to play tomorrow.
How about Ilya Mikheyev?
Keefe: Today was his first day that he was progressing to be on the ice with our players. The skill session — I think that is going to continue to progress as he gains more strength in this hand.
What are you looking for from Joey Anderson in his first game of the season?
Keefe: Joey is a guy who works extremely hard. He is a versatile player. He has good defensive instincts and a great work ethic. We think he can help on the penalty kill.
We liked his camp. We liked his start to the Marlies‘ season. He has been up here a few times with us now, and he has done well in our practices. We haven’t gotten him into a game yet, but with Kase’s absence in the lineup, getting another right winger in there helps us. With his skill set, we think it is a good fit.
Is there anything you want players on the Marlies to know about how they can make an impact in a short amount of time?
Keefe: My focus when I talk to these guys — and I spoke to Joey today — is that we are going to give you some little things to focus on within our structure with the things that are important. Especially in a small sample, they have to come up here and be confident and comfortable in who they are as players.
If you come in and start overthinking it and change who you are, but you only have a short window to make an impression and help our team, you are going to be in tough. Joey is a guy who plays a hard, simple, intelligent game. That is what you look for no matter who you are.
You are up here for a reason, and whatever that reason is, you need to display that. That is the biggest thing: for us to not get in their way. They have enough going on in their head. They are uncomfortable when they come up here. That is just the reality of it. You want to try to make them as comfortable as possible to just be who they are.
Whether it is their linemates or our team in general, we can adapt to them rather than them having to overthink things and adapt to us.
What stands out to you about the way the group has come together during this recent winning stretch?
Keefe: We have remained consistent in how we have played. Defensively, there has been some great consistency there. You are not always going to have your best night offensively. You are not always going to have the puck as much as you’d like. But defensively, we have given ourselves a chance each game because we haven’t given up a great deal.
Even when the volume has gone up, like it did the other night in Anaheim, I think we haven’t given up the same level of high-danger chances that we have given up. Goaltending, of course, has also been extremely consistent.
Those things combined give us a chance to win every game. Good things have happened for us. The power play has been good at times. The penalty kill has been very consistent. Our five-on-five scoring has had an uptick here. Lots of good things there.
Do you have the sense that the players have done a better job of blocking out the noise of the market, good or bad?
Keefe: The guys have stayed focused on what they can control, which is what happens inside the walls and inside the boards. That is really it. It is not just blocking out the negative noise. You have to block out all of the noise. There is noise now, too. We just have to stay focused here.
A good Colorado team is waiting for us tomorrow night. We have to focus on that and reset each day. We talked about going 1-0 each day at every opportunity we get. That has been our focus.
It has been a nice boost to be back here — back home, see your family, in our facility. It is a good boost for us. The reality is that it does feel like an extension of the road trip given we got home after a long trip yesterday, and it was 6:30 p.m. before I walked in my door last night. All of a sudden, you are back here again and you get a practice in with a game day again tomorrow. In a lot of ways, this is an extension of our trip. Let’s make sure we keep the same mindset and be ready to play.
How happy are you with the depth in the organization?
Keefe: Very happy. If you look at the goaltending, first of all, there is both Woll’s performance coming up here and we also have Hutchinson and Kallgren, who is playing very well… The goaltending depth is fully supported in Mrazek’s absence.
If we look at the guys who have come up here, most recently Joey Anderson, I feel confident putting him in the lineup. The addition of Kyle Clifford has given us added depth there as well and extra leadership and veteran presence. There are a number of guys playing really well down with the Marlies right now.
We feel good about it. We have rotated seven defensemen throughout the season. Each of those guys has done a job. We have won games and gone on good runs no matter who has been in or out on that rotation. That makes us feel good about it.
Whether it is Kase, Mikheyev, or Mrazek, we want to have these guys playing and healthy. That will continue to be our focus: to get them back up and running. We do feel good that we can handle things when guys do get hurt.
How important is it that you can look around and know it is not just a handful of people making the meaningful contributions?
Keefe: That is really important. It has been a priority for me, too, in trying to make sure we create a sense of value all throughout our lineup. No matter what your role is on our team, you are important. We need you.
If you look at our season — whether it is the scoring and how that is spread out at different times, or the power play or penalty kill or the goaltending, or our depth scoring, or the way that we have protected leads and used all four lines when protecting leads — all throughout our lineup, the guys have done a good job.
We have moved the lines around. People have moved up or down. Thy have handled that very well. That just gives us confidence in our lineup and in our team. I think there is a great sense of “team” around here. That is extremely important.