Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

Ahead of Tuesday’s game vs. New Jersey, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Mitch Marner, Ilya Samsonov, Morgan Rielly, and Joel Edmundson, managing all of his options on defense, and the challenge against the Devils.

Morning Skate Lines – Mar. 26

What is Mitch Marner’s status?

Keefe: Mitch is no longer day-to-day (away) from day-to-day. He is just day-to-day. He is progressing very well, but he is not available today.

As far as his plan for the rest of the week, I think that will be determined tomorrow. I haven’t gotten a full report on how it went today. His status for practice is undetermined right now, but he is doing well.

How about Ilya Samsonov?

Keefe: I would say the same. He has been skating for the last couple of days, but he wasn’t going to play tonight regardless. Today is a chance for him to work his way back.

At this point, based on how things went today, we are expecting him in practice tomorrow. We’ll take it from there.

How about Morgan Rielly and Joel Edmundson?

Keefe: Rielly is day-to-day — not ruled out for tonight, but we will see how he is later today. Even if doesn’t go today, it is a day-to-day type of situation. It is not an illness.

It is the same with Edmundson. I would say he is not available tonight, and I wouldn’t expect him this week.

There have been injuries and illnesses, but you had nine defensemen after the trade deadline. How do you want to approach the last stretch in terms of keeping them all involved?

Keefe: It is moot at this point (with injuries and illnesses), but today is the first day that Mark Giordano is available to the team or eligible to come off of LTI. We had eight defensemen, for the most part, but now we are at nine and some guys are unavailable. We have been approaching it more with the eight guys.

I would definitely like to keep guys involved. We have seen how we handled some of the back-to-backs and made sure guys stayed in. We need everybody — on forward or defense — and guys must stay ready. When you bring in two new defensemen, it sort of changes the mix a little bit with our group.

Those guys need reps. Other guys need reps playing with them. Timmins is coming off of long injuries and illness. He hasn’t played a lot this season. With Gio, it is the same kind of thing. We have been talking about Brodie’s situation, too.

We are managing all of these things as best we can. The good news is that no matter what we have done or how we have moved things around, the group has responded well.

The idea would be to continue to utilize all of our guys while trying to find some rhythm and consistency inside of it. That is going to be a challenge. We hope that we can be healthy before long and be able to lock in some things.

The schedule itself will make it obvious that we need to share the minutes and responsibilities while, of course, making sure not to lose sight of the fact that we need to secure points.

Where do you think Joseph Woll’s game stands as he works his way back toward his form from before the injury?

Keefe: If the last game was any indication, he is building momentum and getting back into a groove. That was why getting him back in the net tonight was important.

He has had some tough starts here, right? He has been on the tail end of back-to-backs. He has played some tough opponents. Getting him into this one tonight was important for a lot of reasons — not just the way he played last game, but also getting him the extra start.

With Samsonov having the little bump in the road with an injury, it allows that opportunity and makes it fall into place or makes the decision somewhat easier in that sense.

He is building momentum. He looked great the other night.

It is a familiar position for the team to be comfortably in a playoff spot, and you are playing several teams this week who are desperate. How are you approaching it?

Keefe: We had this discussion after our game in Philadelphia and we prepared for the Washington game.

We haven’t clinched anything. Nothing is secure at this point in time. We need to approach it that way — every day, every shift, and every practice, we have to have a level of urgency in everything we are doing. We are approaching it with the mindset that we are going to be able to find a way to clinch a spot and all of those sorts of things, but you have to do it. You have to maximize each day in order to do it. That is very important — to secure those points and secure the spot.

The other part is that we have to have our game in good order. You are fighting all of those sorts of things, and when you pile on the injuries — guys are in and out of the lineup, creating a little bit of adversity within the group — that in and of itself has gotten our attention at key moments.

Let’s not have any slips as we did in Philadelphia. To me, that was a disappointing game in a lot of ways. I thought we responded well in Washington and certainly responded very well in Edmonton. The Carolina game is a challenging game for a lot of reasons — and there are things I didn’t like about that game — but to me, it is not in the same light as what happened in Philadelphia. We still went into it with good intentions and competed well. We maybe didn’t have our legs and were playing against a very good team.

Tonight, let’s build on our last effort that we had [at home]. It is another team with high-octane offense and skill. They will make you pay in transition if you give them easy ice. There are a lot of reasons for us to be dialed in tonight and bring an effort similar to Edmonton.

Travis Green is back behind the bench on an interim basis now in New Jersey. You coached against him in the Canadian division. What stands out about his approach to the game and his teams?

Keefe: We were in the same division in the American league — which is obviously not the NHL — and this is our first time seeing New Jersey this season as strange as it is this late in the season. His teams compete hard. They play a good, honest, and direct game.

This is a different type of team than he has had in terms of the high-level skill. Not that there wasn’t any in Vancouver, but this team is different. We are just kind of getting to know this group in the last few days.

Greener is a good and hard-nosed… I don’t want to say hard-nosed, but he is direct, simple, and communicates with his players. Every player I have coached or been around who has come from a Travis Green-coached team has enjoyed playing for him.

It is good to see him back behind the bench. When I look at the team he is coaching now, they have responded. They are in a fight for the playoffs, but they have always been a great offensive team. They haven’t taken a step back in that area in terms of generating chances and the skill that they possess, but they play a much better team game defensively. That is a credit to how Greener has been able to keep it going.