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

Ahead of Thursday’s game against New Jersey, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed Joel Edmundson’s return to the lineup, the status of Timothy Liljegren, Max Domi’s excellent five-on-five assist rate, and Auston Matthews’ 70-goal pursuit.

Morning Skate Notes – Apr. 11

Are there any lineup changes for tonight?

Keefe: Edmundson will come in and Lyubushkin will come back in as well. Timmins will be out today, and McCabe as well.

It is just a maintenance day for Caber. He has played through a lot of bumps and bruises all through the season. He has played a lot for us. It is a very busy stretch of schedule for us. It is a chance for us to give him a breath.

Do you anticipate more maintenance days in the next few weeks?

Keefe: It is a case-by-case situation. At this point, I wouldn’t say we have anyone in that same sort of situation.

As I said, Caber has played a lot and done a lot for us this season. Quite honestly, I don’t know that he has played a lot of games at 100%. He has played through a lot of stuff this season—nothing that has held him back from playing, but he has played through a lot. Giving him a chance to breathe is good.

The rest of our group is feeling good among those who are in the lineup.

How positive is it to get Joel Edmundson back in the fold with a few games to get himself ready for the playoffs?

Keefe: It is great to see him back for sure, especially for a guy who is still new to our team. To have him miss time is tough, and to get him back in the mix is good.

He has been managing this well. He has been back on skates for a while. We’ve been giving him time to be certain that things are good. It will be nice to get him back in and get him those reps that he needs and we need to have with him.

The other lineup change is getting Dewar back into the same situation. We will give him the reps as a guy who is new to our group.

Edmundson said he would’ve played through the injury if it was playoff time. How does the conversation go with someone who wants to be on the ice?

Keefe: I think it is a pretty easy one. It goes without saying — as I think we all know — that over history, there are lots of things guys will play through in the playoffs that they never would in the regular season because it doesn’t make sense. It is one of those situations.

Ideally, are you hoping Timothy Liljegren will be able to get back into a few games before the playoffs?

Keefe: For sure. I haven’t gotten the report on how today has gone, but it seems like he was feeling well. He will be in practice tomorrow. We will take it a day at a time from there.

Max Domi is right near the top of the league in five-on-five assists. What have you appreciated about his playmaking ability?

Keefe: He has always been a guy who has that ability to make plays, but as he has progressed through the season and gotten more comfortable with his linemates… With the way it is going with Auston, it has been terrific to watch, but you look at different things throughout the season with how we utilized him.

Earlier in the season, a game against Tampa comes to mind where we put him with Knies and he made two terrific plays that allowed us to come back in that game. We have used him a lot in the middle of the ice at center, where he has done really well.

He has that ability and skill, and then there is confidence. He is a veteran in the league. He believes he can make a difference, and that confidence shines through at any moment. He is a competitor, and the opposition can bring whatever they want. His confidence doesn’t get shaken based on what the opposition is doing.

I have talked about this with Bert. Those types of competitors and that mindset is what was exciting about adding those guys. As the season is winding down and you are getting more prepared for playoffs, it is that much more exciting. I think those are the types of guys who will shine when things are most difficult.

Do you ever worry about your players getting outside of the game plan a little bit while trying to set up Auston Matthews in his pursuit of 70?  You have been through this a couple of times with Mitch Marner chasing 100 points and other milestones.

Keefe: We have been through it. Am I concerned about it? Not necessarily. I think the guys have done a good job of it. It has been good.

I look at the goals that the group has scored and Auston has scored, and the process has been good. The guys haven’t cheated the game. They haven’t forced anything.

I know whether Auston should’ve been on with the goalie out got lots of play. He was going to be out. He was the next man up. He was not going to be out there 4-on-6 — it is not a situation he plays in, and to me, that would be forcing it. At 6-on-5, he was the next guy up. We just didn’t get the line change we wanted at the time.

To me, the guys are just going out and playing. That is the best way. If you want to add to your goal total, just go out and play. Those are good players who have been dominating play. Just go out and go about it the right way.

It is already remarkable what Auston has accomplished, right? The number continues to grow. No one in the league has reached this number, which is terrific to watch.

Auston is feeling really good right now. He has lots of energy. You can see it in his play. Talking to him, you can see it. You can see the way he interacts with his teammates. He is playing with a free mind. You can see it out there.

We will keep going about it. He is a big part of our team process, and he will score goals through that.

Who is the best goal-scorer you personally ever played with?

Keefe: For me, it would probably be Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis, who I played with in Tampa.

It doesn’t show up in my hockeydb at all, but I spent a month with the Rangers in 2003 on a team that was pretty loaded with veterans. I say “play,” but I was just practicing there for a month. I didn’t get into the lineup.

Vinny and Marty were exceptional. I left that team just before they really started to take off and hit their peak, but the talent was quite obvious.

Dave Andreychuk was at the end of the line, but man, that guy could score around the net despite his age. It was unbelievable.