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

After Wednesday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed stopping practice to tear a strip off the team, Ilya Samsonov’s status for Thursday’s game, and a pair of Leafs prospects making the Team Canada WJC selection camp roster.

Practice Lines – Dec. 6

At one point in the practice, you stopped practice and were rather animated. Is that part of wanting to get on with the games after a bunch of practice time?

Keefe: Part of that is that there are positives and negatives to not playing. In practice time, you work on some things, but the negative piece of it is that you are not necessarily game-ready. You are trying to manufacture that.

As much as you want guys to compete at a high level and work in practice, it is not the same as a game when you are going against your teammates. When you are trying to maintain high standards and habits that you want to bring into games, it is difficult to do when you don’t play for a bit.

You are going to play against a team that has been playing, so you are trying to manufacture that through practice time. Certainly, you want to get in a rhythm here. It has been unnatural how our schedule has been over the last month or so.

We would like to start building our game and building some positive momentum. Having games without disruptions is part of that. We have to take care of the first game in front of us and look to build that momentum with a busy stretch coming up.

How did Ilya Samsonov look through the practice session? Will he travel with you to Ottawa?

Keefe: Just the fact that he got through it was a good thing and a positive sign. He came in today feeling better and the best he has felt in quite some time. It is really positive to get the full skate in.

He will travel with us and take the skate in the morning. We will see how he is and decide on whether or not he will back up.

Is it reassuring to have someone of Martin Jones’ experience at the ready as your number-three goalie?

Keefe: It is really good to have him in the organization, both in the role he’s able to play with the Marlies — and the goalies there — and supporting us here as well. If Sammy is ill, we can call on Jonesy. With his experience, he is another really good partner for a young goalie like Joseph Woll.

It is really good for us to have that level of depth.

In addition to their showings at training camp this past Fall, what does it say about the depth of the organization that Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten are invited to Team Canada World Junior camp?

Keefe: It speaks to how those players have developed and the belief that the organization showed in them by selecting them when they did. I don’t know that they were overly popular picks at the time necessarily, but they are two guys who the organization believed in. They just worked.

In talking to both guys, like any young player, you have a goal of playing in the World Juniors and giving yourself a chance to be on the list to compete for a spot. It is a great accomplishment for them.

It is another experience for them as they are developing. I am sure it will be a competitive camp, and they will be right in the mix. One of the things about those two guys is that they are absolute competitors. They will certainly give their all.

Ahead of Thursday’s game in Ottawa, do you look back on letting the game against the Senators get away from you in the third period last month in Toronto? Is the focus more on what the Senators did against the Rangers on Tuesday and what your team did against the Bruins last Saturday?

Keefe: We are just focusing on our game. No matter who our opponent has been, there are things in each of those games that we want to improve on.

We thought the Boston game, in terms of how our game looked, was one of the more complete games that we have played. We didn’t get the result in the end, and there are things we want to manage inside of it that could help us get on the winning side, but we want to continue to build our game.

These last few practice days have been about connecting with the things we did well in Boston, continuing to refine those, and working through some of those details in our practice before bringing it out in the game no matter who we are playing.