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

After Friday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed the addition of Ilya Lyubushkin and the status of Calle Jarnkrok and Timothy Liljegren for Saturday’s game against the Rangers.

Practice Lines – Mar. 1

How do you think Ilya Lyubushkin is going to help your group?

Keefe: I think it helps us for sure. We are familiar with him, and when he came here in the past, he helped us both in what he brings and the type of player that he is. He is ultra-competitive, physical, and strong, and he doesn’t back down to anyone or any situation. He plays the game hard and honest.

He is a right shot, and we have talked enough about that to know the importance of that. That in and of itself allows some things to settle into place, which is where the additional boost comes from.

Part of it is what Boosh himself brings. Part of it is how it impacts the rest of the D core. I think it is a good move and we are happy to have him. There is familiarity with the players and staff that was here. Everyone really enjoyed their time with him. I certainly did.

It was good timing, too, of course.

How much did Brad Treliving lean on you given you are familiar with Lyubushkin? Did you get a sense it was close or could be happening?

Keefe: We had conversations about it over the last little while. He just wanted to know my perspective on my time with him. I haven’t seen much of him (recently) other than us preparing to play against him, but in his time here, I really enjoyed coaching him. He got along very well with the players. He fit in well. I know Tre talked to some of the guys as well and got their perspective.

You have confidence that he would fit in not only with the players who have been here but with the group, the coaching staff, and the training staff. At this time of the year, I think it is something to help with that transition for players coming into a team that is trying to win and be competitive. A guy who has some familiarity that can ease the transition is helpful.

Would you want to have him in the lineup tomorrow if possible?

Keefe: Yes.

What is Calle Jarnkrok’s status moving forward?

Keefe: I haven’t gotten the report on how things went today, but he is very close. He will be a question for us going into tomorrow. I think it is the first time that he is a possibility to play. It is the first real practice that he has had with us. Today was an important day to get through. We probably won’t know more until tomorrow morning.

How much have you missed what he brings in terms of his versatility and penalty-killing ability?

Keefe: The team has done well. The players have played well and have filled in for the minutes he has left, but you do miss him. He does provide a lot for you. He gives our group a boost with his versatility. He impacts the team and the game in different ways on both special teams, at five-on-five, and he plays both wings. He moves up and down the lineup. There is a lot there.

The players who have filled those minutes have done a good job for us. That has been a positive as well. When Jarny comes back, it is going to force us to make some tough decisions. Certainly, we are a better team when he is in.

Where does Timothy Liljegren stand?

Keefe: He is another guy who is not necessarily ruled out for tomorrow, but it is not a certainty he will play given his absence in practice. It was purposeful today to get a feel for where he is at but not to overdo it so that he could be a possibility for tomorrow.

Again, with Liljegren, Jarnkrok, and Lyubushkin — who is traveling in and has Visa issues that have to get sorted out — all of those things will be determined tomorrow.

What does Joseph Woll returning and snapping back to form mean for your goaltending going forward? There are a lot of good options there.

Keefe: Lots of great options. We have three goaltenders to manage here, but in my mind, there are two goalies in terms of my decision-making about who is going to play each day.

Certainly, with Joseph, the way that he played yesterday was a great sign and a great thing. Now, it is going to be important for us to manage him well and really get him back going in a regular rhythm without overdoing it for a guy who hasn’t played for a long time and is returning from a difficult injury.

He won’t play tomorrow. It will be Samsonov. That was our plan before the game started yesterday, and we are just staying with that. It is the right thing to do for both Samsonov and Joseph.

What is your sense of Morgan Rielly’s game? There has been a lot happening since he returned with the different partners.

Keefe: As things have moved around more, it hasn’t gone as well for our entire D core. Morgan is part of that. As we saw in the Vegas game and the Colorado game, when he came back, he did a good job for us. You could see the boost and the energy that he had from missing the time.

I am not worried about Morgan. He has been here for a long time and has performed at his very best when it counts the most. We will keep working with him and keep putting him out there. We know we can count on Morgan.