After practice on Sunday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the addition of Ilya Lyubushkin and Ryan Dzingel, where Lyubushkin might fit in the lineup, and Jake Muzzin playing below his own expectations this season.
Practice Lines – February 20
#Leafs line at practice Feb. 20/22*
UofT extras: Bornstein, Grima
Absent:Sandin, Lyubushkin, Dzingel
*fixed the date.
— David Alter (@dalter) February 20, 2022
What was your reaction to the trade that brought Ilya Lyubushkin and Ryan Dzingel to the team yesterday?
Keefe: It increases our depth in the organization. I am not as familiar with Lyubushkin myself, but Dzingel is a guy I have seen a lot of. He has played a lot in the NHL. My understanding is that he is on waivers today. In the event that he clears, it increases the depth of the organization for sure. He is a guy with a ton of NHL experience and lots of speed and skill.
Lyubushkin is a real hard, physical, simple defender that we like. I think it increases the depth of the organization; it maintains the depth at forward that we had with Ritchie, and then increases the defensive depth.
Will Lyubushkin be available for tomorrow’s game?
Keefe: He will meet is in Columbus. As a Russian, he has some Visa stuff he has to sort through before he comes to Canada.
How high do you think Lyubushkin can play in the lineup?
Keefe: Let’s get to know him better before we go making any sort of proclamations like that. The fact that he does have experience playing with top defensemen is a positive, obviously.
First of all, I am going to get to know him better. Dean Chynoweth spent most of the morning familiarizing himself a little bit more and trying to get the information from the scouting staff and from Kyle.
Let’s get him here and let’s get him comfortable. The big thing for us is that it adds another guy to our defensive depth. That is important.
What is Rasmus Sandin’s situation?
Keefe: We had to clear some roster space for the trade itself. That will get sorted out. By tomorrow, that will get sorted out, and we expect him to be available in Montreal.
What gives you faith Jake Muzzin will find his way with his game?
Keefe: It is experience and much he cares. That is really it. I am not focused on Jake. I am focused on our team.
I think Jake is a guy that, when we are not playing well as a team and defending well as a team, takes on a lot of that himself. At times, I think he is doing a little bit too much and is getting caught on that.
We need our guys to play connected as a team. I think that is going to help a guy like Muzz to do his job. When he is focused on just that, he does it well.
Right now, in this season, with the way things have gone defensively — especially of late — he is taking on a lot of it himself. That is not good for anybody.
Are you giving Muzzin and Holl a break here in terms of moving them apart?
Keefe: Not necessarily. Maybe that is part of it. When we look at last night’s game, St. Louis is a very deep team. There is the fact that we tried Liljegren up there and he has done a good job, and there is also the fact that it gives us the ability to spread things out a little bit more with the experience with Holl playing down.
We also wanted to get a look at different things. That is really it. I wouldn’t read too much with it with Holl specifically.
How do you help Jake Muzzin not take on as much considering his nature?
Keefe: Improve the team around him.
Are you going with Mrazek tomorrow?