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

After Sunday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed his new combinations on the first and third lines, Jake McCabe’s status for Monday’s game, and John Klingberg’s adjustment to his new team in Toronto.

Practice lines – Nov. 5

What are you hoping to get out of some of the changes to the forward lines?

Keefe: We are obviously looking to get more from our entire group throughout the lineup. The timing is right here with us having a practice day. It has been a while since we have had an opportunity to really change some things and get some practice reps in. Between that and what has happened with our group of late, the timing is right to work on some different things.

What have you seen from Matthew Knies this season, and what are you hoping to unlock with him on the top line?

Keefe: He is still adjusting to the league. He is still learning the league, the level of competition, the schedule, and the demands of the schedule. The rhythm of the NHL is far different than anything else.

His experience in the playoffs was certainly a good way for him to kind of get a crash course on it, but it is still different when you are bouncing around from city to city. We had seven games in seven different cities during the stretch around the road trip. That in and of itself for young players is a lot to manage.

I think he is adjusting to both the lifestyle and the game itself. He has still shown great glimpses of what he is capable of. We saw it in Tampa. Even within each game, he has good moments. We are just looking for it to come together and fall into place in terms of his offensive game and the finer details that come with it all.

What can Max Domi provide down the middle?

Keefe: We wanted to get him some reps down the middle in practice today so that we have that option. He has played a lot of center throughout his time in the league.

For us, getting the puck in the middle of the ice can help push that line. Having a little more offensive push to the line itself and getting him unlocked as an offensive driver for the group is an important thing for us. It is really about that.

It is one thing we haven’t worked through here, whether it is in camp, preseason, or the early going here. He hasn’t gotten the practice reps. I have used him. I think he has played shifts at center in every game this season. They’re usually coming at the end of power plays or penalty kills.

He has done a pretty good job of it on the fly. He hasn’t had the practice reps. We wanted to make sure he had that today.

Do you anticipate Jake McCabe being ready for tomorrow’s game vs. Tampa?

Keefe: McCabe got through practice today without hesitation, but with his type of injury, it will be all about how he responds and feels tomorrow. I don’t suspect we will know about him until the morning or closer to the game just to make sure that everything looks good and he is responding well. It is a very encouraging sign to have him out there today.

What have you liked about William Lagesson since he has hopped into the lineup?

Keefe: He has just been solid. He has done a very nice job. We used him on the right and on the left. We have used him at five-on-five and on the penalty kill when we needed to.

He has been really good. It has been important for us with the injuries that we have and what we are going through. He should feel really good about it. Mike Van Ryn has some confidence in him that he has earned through his time here. That has been positive for us.

What is the key for John Klingberg getting more shots through traffic?

Keefe: Probably making decisions quicker and distributing the puck quicker at the same time. It is not always about the shots. Sometimes, when you move it quicker, you will end up getting it back and there is a little more real estate to get it through. Some room opens up. It is just kind of finding the balance and finding his rhythm with the group.

How do you think he has handled some of the improvements you’ve asked of him defensively?

Keefe: I think he has handled it well. He has worked really hard. He has a number of things he can continue to get better at.

He and Mike Van Ryn spend a lot of time talking about his game and talking about what he has been through before he got here. They are working through it each day, trying not to overwhelm him but at the same time knowing that there is still a lot of potential for his game to continue to improve and get him back working towards being the player he believes he can be, we believe he can be, and what he has been in the league previously. It has been some time since he has gotten there.

We are probably asking a lot of all of our defense right now with the injuries that we have. There is a great opportunity there at the same time. Be excited about that and continue to work at it.