Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs practice
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs practice

After practice on Friday, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Calle Järnkork and TJ Brodie, the decision to insert Wayne Simmonds into the lineup for Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay, and the plan for splitting the workload in net going forward with both goalies now healthy.

Practice Lines – December 2

Do you have a better idea of what Calle Järnkork’s timeline is going to be?

Keefe: Yeah, he is going to at least be two weeks. We will take it from there. We will see where he is at once we return. It will give us a better sense of what it looks like beyond that.

Will TJ Brodie travel with you?

Keefe: Yeah, Brodie is going to travel. He is progressing well. We are not necessarily expecting him to play on this trip, but we do have a practice day in Dallas and morning skates and such. I think we will see him more involved in regular team activities.

There is a lot of talk about how different guys have stepped up, and how Giordano and Holl have stepped up. How has Dean Chynoweth on the bench helped navigate the young players on defense and guys stepping up?

Keefe: I think he has been great. The biggest thing is there are no signs of panic or stress — just a next-man-up mentality in working with those guys and spending time with them, but also just in your demeanour.

It starts with me and my approach in that it is a next-man-up mentality. We have to set that example. Dean is sort of the man working closest with the defense. He is the guy who has to try to embody that. He has to trust them, get them in spots, get them minutes, and manage that.

Gio and Holl’s minutes have gone up. Special teams responsibilities have changed a little bit for guys. There is a lot to manage there. I think he has done an exceptional job of it.

What went into the decision to put Wayne Simmonds back in the lineup?

Keefe: We have the injury, and we like to have Wayne involved. We think he is a guy that has played well for us against Tampa, in particular, and helped us on the road. It’s just having a little more experience on the road against an experienced team like Tampa.

What did you take away from facing the Lightning in the series last year that can maybe help you moving forward?

Keefe: Any time you go through a series like that, no matter who the opponent is, you learn a lot about your team and yourself. I think we did a lot of good things in that series, but obviously not enough to get it done in the end. You still grow inside of that and learn some of the tendencies of your opponent for sure, but every season is a new one. Every game is a new one, especially in the regular season.

A lot hs changed, even though not a whole lot of time has passed. They’re two different teams in their own way and a far different time of year.

What do you see that is different about them this season from the prescout?

Keefe: They have a couple of injuries right now that have changed things a bit. Some of their players have changed, but I think their identity, by and large, is very much the same. It has worked quite well for them. I don’t think there is a whole lot different there.

Is it safe to say that Mitch Marner is going to have to earn the continuation of the points streak against a pretty good defensive team in Tampa?

Keefe: Yeah, Tampa is not going to give you anything for free. It is a great challenge for our entire team. We have played well on the road here. This is a whole other challenge. It is a divisional opponent and all of those kinds of things.

Big game and a big opportunity for our team to keep moving here. We have played very well on the road, but again, you come in for a little pit stop at home and you want to get back to those habits and get back to playing that way.

I don’t think we played nearly as well the other night on home ice. We need to get the same mentality from the previous road trip and bring that out here against two great quality teams.

Marner was talking about leaning on his dog on off days to de-stress. When it comes to pressure situations, do you think he is getting better at it moving forward as he’s maturing in the league?

Keefe: Yeah, I think he has learned to deal with that very well. He has been through it, is the big thing. Like anything else, with the things you go through on the ice, you go through it and you learn how to deal with it. You know what works and what doesn’t.

I think he is at a point now where he is very comfortable with who he is, the work that he does, and trusts that process to give him opportunities to succeed. Everything else outside of that is just noise and negative energy.

We have a job to do with all of our players with that. The players, when they leave here, have to take care of themselves and make sure they are in the right headspace. I think that is part of the maturation process for any player.

Mitch is one that has certainly handled that very well here in the last couple of seasons, I would say. You are seeing some of those results in how he is dealing with adversity.

Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray are both healthy and up and running now. The plan was to split the workload at the start. Is that still the plan? With Murray on such a good run, do you have to ride him a bit?

Keefe: We want to have both guys involved. That is the reality of the NHL, first of all. In our situation specifically, both guys have played so well. coming into the season, we believed in their abilities and thought we could get a lot of use out of both. That mindset hasn’t changed.

However, it is a day-to-day thing. We will look at it based on schedule and whatnot. We think Matt has done a terrific job and has played a fair number of starts in a row. He has really gone on a roll. He didn’t play the other night, so it is important for us to get him back in. He will go tomorrow.

We have a bit of a plan going forward there, but we won’t communicate that to anyone — including them — until we need to. I think it is important we take each day as it comes and decide from there.