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

After practice on Monday, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the callup of Semyon Der-Arguchinstev, inserting SDA and Conor Timmins into the lineup for Tuesday’s game against Dallas, and TJ Brodie’s progress towards a return.

Practice Lines – December 5

What prompted the call-up of Semyon Der-Arguchintsev to join the team?

Keefe: The Järnkork injury created an opportunity for another player to come up. All the reports through the season with the Marlies have been glowing in regard to Semy’s play, particularly his play away from the puck, his consistency, his work habits, and his competitiveness — all of the things we have been asking him to do for quite some time now. The reports are he has delivered on that.

The opportunity is there. You bring him in. We will get him right involved and give him an opportunity to go and play.

From your time working with SDA, how would you describe his personality?

Keefe: Well, he is different, right? He is not the traditional hockey player you encounter. He is a very unique guy. He has a unique skill set and plays the game in a unique way as well.

That is part of his growth: to find that balance of using the skill and the type of slower, more methodical game that he plays but also being able to play and compete in the high-paced, physical, competitive game that is the NHL  — and the AHL, for that matter — and adjusting to that.

Any time I have coached him — be it from my time with the Marlies, in rookie tournaments, or exhibition games with the Leafs — I have really enjoyed it. I think he is a very versatile guy who can do a lot of things. He is not a guy who has put up big offensive numbers or anything like that, although he is off to a good start this year and has had good success on the power play and such.

He is a guy who has the puck a lot. He moves the puck up the ice really well. He does a lot of really good things under pressure that allow him to play against bigger, stronger guys. He has been able to do that well in preseason hockey. He has followed it up now with a good start to the AHL season. Now, we will give him a chance at the NHL level.

What made now the right time to get Conor Timmins into the lineup?

Keefe: He has had some practice time with us. We just thought it made sense now. It is two full team practices that he has had now in the last five or so days. He has put in a lot of work with our development team. We just think the timing is right. Brodie’s return is not too far away. It is going to be harder to get in when that happens. I just think it is a good time to get him involved.

Is using both Timmins and SDA on the second power-play unit something different you want to see out of PP2 or more about getting them involved?

Keefe: It is all of the other pieces. It is getting them involved with our team and showing what they can do. Part of what they do is play on the power play. Both of those guys have had success at different levels and play on the power play. That is part of who they are.

Our second-unit power play has not produced a lot. It has not been given a ton of opportunity, but it still hasn’t produced a lot and it hasn’t necessarily clicked or found its real identity. We will use the skill set that they have to get them extra minutes and touches there.

It is more so just getting them involved with our team and giving them a chance to play. The power play stuff is a bit of a bonus to that.

Who is starting in net tomorrow?

Keefe: We will go with Murray tomorrow. We like the ability to give him back-to-back games here with rest. We will get him going.

We are going to use both of our guys. Sammy will play when we get back home against LA. We will get him focused and prepared for that. It will be Murray tomorrow.

Is TJ Brodie a possibility for later this week?

Keefe: We will have to see. This was really only his first practice with us. It is a big step for where he is at. We don’t have another practice again before we play when we first get back home. I don’t think he is too far away. I don’t think we are ruling him out for anything at this point beyond tomorrow. We will just have to see how he responds.

How encouraged are you by how the five-man units have played without Brodie, Muzzin, and Rielly?

Keefe: The guys have played well, have held the fort here, and have found ways to win, but we are a better team when we have our experienced and best defensemen available.  Whether it is Brodie or Mo, getting these guys back gives the guys life.

What stands out to you from the last time you played the Stars?

Keefe: They are deep with a good balance of youth, experience, size, speed, and skill. They defend hard and well. They protect their net well. They have strong goaltending.

They have put together a real good stretch of hockey here. They have played us hard any time we have played them this season or previous. It will be a tough game for us for sure. Their best players are really feeling it offensively. That will be a challenge in and of itself.

For us, offensively, it was tough to get to the net last time we played them. We have to do a better job of that.

When you look at the scouting report of Jason Robertson, what jumps out about the way he is rolling?

Keefe: Pucks find him at an incredible rate. He has great finishing ability, but a lot of players have great finishing ability. Right now, he is finding a lot of pucks that come to him in good spots. He is making good on them.

Obviously, his line clicks extremely well. He has success on the power play. It is all of those things that have helped, but he is an incredibly smart player with great hands and finishing ability.