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

After Monday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed Joseph Woll rejoining the team in practice after his conditioning stint, Timothy Liljegren’s injury status, Calle Jarnkrok’s timeline for a return, and John Tavares’ new role at 3C and on the second-unit power play.

Practice Lines – Feb. 26

Now that Joseph Woll is back with the group, what is the plan for managing the goalies moving forward?

Keefe: Today was an important day just to get him back with the NHL guys and see where he is at after last week. He looks good and says he feels good. Since the practice has ended, I have not had a chance to talk to the medical team about what comes next.

For today, in order to get a full assessment of Woll, we had Martin Jones do a goalie session. We wanted to keep it to just two goalies on the ice, give them each their own net, and it will be a day-to-day thing here as we are getting Joe back up to speed and managing the three guys.

Presumably, you wouldn’t have any issues as a coach with carrying three goalies?

Keefe: I wouldn’t have any problem with that. I think we can manage it. That will, of course, be up to Tre and how he manages the roster.

A number of teams are carrying three goalies this year. How valuable is it? The other goalies have mentioned that Martin Jones has helped them along. 

Keefe: Specific to Martin with his experience, character, and the type of person I have come to know, he has tremendous value for us.

Whether it is clearing waivers, going down to the Marlies, and being a good pro while being a positive influence on the goalies there, coming up here in tough circumstances, or handling the situation now where there are three goalies in the building — four, I guess, if you want to include Matt Murray in that — he has done a tremendous job of it.

He will get his work in. He will continue to be ready if called on.

How is Matt Murray coming along?

Keefe: I think he is making great progress. He is seeing pucks and getting his work in. He has been very consistent here putting in his work. They have been happy with his progress. He has been hard at it. He and Curtis Sanford have started to really connect and build out a plan for him on the ice.

What is Timothy Liljegren’s status?

Keefe: He is day-to-day and not ruled out for tomorrow. We needed to give him one extra day today. We will see where he is at in the morning. He got banged up the other night and left the bench a couple of times in the third period. He wasn’t able to finish the game. He just needs a little more time to settle down.

In terms of his availability for tomorrow, it is up in the air. We will see where he is at when we come to the rink tomorrow.

Calle Jarnkrok looks to be doing some stickhandling. Where does he stand in his progress?

Keefe: He has made progress, but he isn’t to the point where he could join us in full practice today. He will get on the ice with the guys tomorrow morning in the optional morning skate and hope to build toward a full practice. The target for him is closer to the weekend or into next week.

What was the conversation like with John Tavares when you asked him to take on a different role down the lineup?

Keefe: I don’t know if I would say I asked him, first of all. It was more just talking him through it and explaining why I thought the timing was right for it both in terms of how it affects the team and how it impacts the others who have been playing well and had built some positive momentum over the last little bit. The times when John missed two of the three games gave us some different looks. We wanted to continue to build on it.

John is all about the team and doing whatever is asked of him. It was pretty straightforward as I expected it would be. John is all business. He gets it. He is focused on one thing, which is helping our team win in the end. He is on board with anything that can help with that.

He has handled it terrifically since then in terms of his play, his demeanour, and not having it affect his role as a leader and a captain.

Is it an advantage for the two linemates who don’t have much experience in the league to be able to play with and learn from him?

Keefe: Certainly. It is something we have talked about. Partially, it is about Max Domi, who has moved up, but it is also a chance for him to work with our younger guys and help bring them along. It gives him a different look and a different feel at five-on-five as well.

The power play is a big one for him. He had been having so much success there with us. That is all part of it, but he is focused on one thing. He has his priorities straight and knows what is important. With where he is in his career and where we are as a team, he gets it. He has handled it tremendously.

Do you think the softer matchups can be beneficial to Tavares?

Keefe: Of course they can, just like they are when Max is playing lower in the lineup. That can certainly benefit him. It is something for me to manage and continue to assess as we go through it.

I don’t think it has been a perfect experiment so far, but we have been getting good results in terms of the team winning. Guys have been producing and feeling good. I still feel there is a way to go for each of those lines to develop chemistry. For the most part, both lines have been getting out-chanced when they are out there.

That is something we have to manage, but they have been doing enough to make sure the goals are on the right side at least. There is a lot inside of the chemistry there with those guys, their linemates, the matchups, and the assignments that they have. I think they can continue to do a better job of it.

Are you seeing signs Morgan Rielly has gotten back into the groove of things?

Keefe: He looks good. He seems like he has lots of energy. It was a long trip last week. In four games, I think we changed time zones four different times to play the four games. You are finishing at altitude in Colorado. It was a tough trip for us.

Morgan came in midstream on the trip, and I thought he had lots of energy, of course, but he also gave the group energy both in what his being back means to the group and also his play on the ice.