March 27, 2023
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Sheldon Keefe Updates Matt Murray & Jordie Benn Status As They Close To Return, Doesn’t Provide Further Clarity On Jake Muzzin (“Out Indefinitely”)

Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

After Wednesday’s practice, head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke about the progress of Matt Murray and Jordie Benn towards a return, the current status of Jake Muzzin and the team’s 3-1 record in overtime this season.

Practice Lines – November 9th

What did Matt Murray look like in practice and what does his future hold?

Keefe: I thought he looked good. I thought he made a step in terms of the quality of work he was able to do today compared to yesterday, which is a positive development. It seemed like he got over it just fine.

All of that is good. He’s heading in the right direction. In terms of the plan ahead, it’s to give him another day tomorrow and just keep seeing how he reacts.

Are you excited to see Murray make his debut here with the Leafs?

Because he progressed so quickly in the beginning, this weekend a couple of weeks ago was something of a goal they wanted to work towards as long as he kept making good progress. Here we are on course.

We just have to make sure we’re being smart about it and that Matt is comfortable — not so much from a physical standpoint, but just in terms of stopping the puck, being comfortable in a game and being prepared after playing for so long was gone.

Is Saturday a possibility for Murray?

Keefe: We didn’t talk much about it. When we spoke a few weeks ago, that was considered a possibility. That’s what they’ve been working towards. Due to the nature and position of such an injury, we do not commit to such a thing. He’s been feeling fine, but you want to keep monitoring it and make sure it’s not a problem in the future.

It’s also about making sure we’re getting the right reps. We have the rare back-to-back drills this week, which is very helpful for someone like Matt who’s trying to get up and get going.

It remains an option at this point, but we will make the appropriate decision. Really, I won’t be part of the discussion. It will be more the medical team, the performance team and Matt himself.

Was Ilya Samsonov able to go back on the ice today?

Keefe: Yes, he was back today. I haven’t been able to get an update on how it’s been going, but that’s two days in a row. It’s a positive sign that he’s doing well and progressing further than we might have first thought.

What is your comfort level when Keith Petruzzelli has to step into a game?

Keefe: I feel good about it. He’s a guy who deserves it. These are the situations where a guy like him would get a chance since it’s a duel and you have several injured goalkeepers in the organization.

He comes in, he works hard and he has a good attitude. He made it on all levels. I also liked the time he spent with us during camp. We’ll make the decision here once we have a slightly clearer picture of Matt’s status, but the organization believes in the guy.

The situation was accelerated in regards to the signing but it tended to be inevitable with the work he put in and the belief in him.

Is there any clarity on Jake Muzzin’s status?

Keefe: No clarity at this point. During this phase he will be absent indefinitely. As soon as there is more clarity about this, you will be made aware of it.

With Jordie Benn activated, are there any plans to bring him into a game in the near future?

Keefe: We will see. We haven’t talked about it here. Due to the back-to-back training days, we didn’t spend much time on line-ups or anything like that today. In general, I don’t like it when guys sit around for too long. We’ll look at that.

We haven’t seen him much in the last few weeks but I was very happy with him during camp and the early departure before he had his injury. He’s a veteran who has a bit different abilities and playstyle than we have with some of our other options.

We like that about him. Someday we’ll catch up with him for sure. We have to discuss when that will be.

Overtime can be different, but is there anything you would like your group to do differently in these situations after losing three times in a row?

Keefe: There are some things about three-on-three that are very unpredictable and reactionary. The game against Dallas works for us, but last night is the one that’s freshest in my memory. Obviously you just have to defend the middle of the ice much better and also hold on to the puck. We had the puck, won the faceoff and gave it up way too easily. Possession is a big part of the game in general, but it’s even more so in 3v3.

I think we can do little things like that better, but three-on-three is a bit messy. We want to get better in that area, but we have a lot of other things that are higher on the list for me.

When you look at lead defense, how much of it comes down to decision making?

Keefe: I think a lot of it is mental. It’s knowing what’s going on. It’s the decision making. It’s knowing where to put the puck. It is the knowledge of the transitions. Sometimes, in the transitions when pucks are an issue, you can shade on the offensive side when you need to score, but you need to shade on the defensive side when defending a lead so you have the structure you’re practicing and have, can retain space.

In general, in the NHL, when the teams are structured, it’s quite difficult for the opponent to prevail. When you’re in the lead and you don’t necessarily need to score the next goal, you still want to push and control the game – and if you can score, great – but you need to do it in a position where you can keep the structure that way much as possible.

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