Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

After training on Thursday, Sheldon Keefe discussed Nick Ritchie’s goal drought to start the season, David Kampf’s status after leaving Wednesday night’s match, the decision to start Joe Woll on Friday night in San Jose and to keep Travis Dermott engaged when he was out. .

When David Kampf was out there for training, is that a good sign he could play tomorrow?

Keefe: It works like this. It was a good day for him. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow when he wakes up and comes on the field. We would probably call it a fighting time decision, but it was a very positive day for him.

What is the status of Ondrej Kase?

Keefe: Like we have to see how he feels tomorrow. It’s a maintenance day. We’ll see how he does tomorrow morning.

Was there something new with Kase, or is it more the accumulation of the way he plays blocking shots, takes punches and so on?

Is it more stress management for Jack Campbell today?

Keefe: Yes it is. He’s not going to play tomorrow. Joe Woll starts tomorrow. It’s a perfect day for us to give him the day here. He is still able to get two good work days to prepare for Anaheim.

How do you keep the defender on the sidelines for extended periods of time, especially if they have not done anything particularly wrong?

Keefe: Communication is a big part of it – just letting them know that this is the situation. Whether you’re the guy who’s in or the guy’s out, you’re trying to make them understand that there are times when we’ve kept the line-up straight and kept guys in who maybe had reasons to get out and did not. We gave them more opportunities to play. As a result, others have had to sit.

We thought Justin Holl might have a fight. He ended up sitting five. In general, we have tried to keep the line-up running here. It’s a daily discussion. We just felt like we wanted to keep it going right here the last little while. We will do the same tomorrow in the defense.

In Dermott’s case, he reviews it. He must find his way to stay sharp, stay ready and step in and take advantage of his opportunity. Liljegren has had a lot of fights at the start of the season and he has done a good job since. He has come out of the ranks, gone in again and done well.

It’s just a matter of communicating and making sure the guys know what the situation is. I think we have done that. We believe that it is a strength for us as a team at the moment to have seven defensive players who can play, but it is definitely something we have to manage.

Are you trying to avoid keeping them out for really long periods of time?

Keefe: Yes we are. The intention with Holl was not that it should go that way. We also do not try to be automatic, where there must be an actual rotation, where you get out every single match. We’re just going to react to what we think is right for the team and what’s right for the players at that particular time.

Sometimes you want to make a change to mix it up. Sometimes, even though it’s a bad night like against Pittsburgh, we kept the same lineup, came back and I wanted the same group to go out again and get a chance to show that they can get better and are better.

It’s a daily discussion we go through. Right now there’s Holl, Dermott, Liljegren, and even Sandin is a little bit involved in the mix of guys who might have to go out from time to time. Sometimes it’s just controlling their minutes and their rest, which we have discussed specifically with Sandin and Liljegren, who are two younger guys who have not played much hockey at this level and last season did not play much hockey. Both guys have already played as much or more than they played last season and they have had a history of some injuries. We must also be smart about that.

How do you weigh Jack Campbell’s excellent play against the workload and how much is too much?

Keefe: It is a challenge. I do not know if there is any real threshold there that you say is too much or the right amount. It is to know that you have to give him time. It’s just the fair thing to do and the smart thing to do when you know how long the season is.

Jack is a really good place here in terms of how he controls his body and how the medical team works with him to control his body. We went through a lot of different things with him last season, but I think it really helped Jack to get to know his body better and how to take care of it. Also the medical team is in a groove there.

Sometimes things will happen and you can not prevent everything. Sometimes there will be accidents or whatever, but you do what you can daily to control your process and how you prepare. He has done a fantastic job with that, and yet lately we have really just given him back-to-back.

We feel it is important to find him opportunities to take a day like today. It’s not so much even to miss the game tomorrow; it takes a day like today – an extra day off the rest of the team does not [get] – and what it can do for his body and his mind. We think it’s just as important to find those days.

What do you think it means to Nick Ritchie that the guys gather for him? The guys were looking to get him one last night. What do you think it does to him when he goes through this drought?

Keefe: I think it shows that his teammates care about him. They appreciate who he is and what he does for our team – that he adds value to us. He’s a guy who goes through it and is used to scoring. Last season, he was at a career-high pace for himself. He comes into this group here and he wants to stand out. That’s a big part of what he’s been up to in his career.

You can just imagine what he can go through mentally. I think he has handled it very well. The support of his teammates goes a long way. He also needs the support of the coaching staff to help keep him focused on other things.

I think he’s done good things. When the puck is on his stick on the eruption, he makes play and makes us move up the ice. There was the screen on target yesterday. There are the little things – the touch on the pre-check at the Kase goal on Long Island. Such small things help us win matches.

That’s what’s been nice here. We’ve won a lot of matches, so I think that helps reduce some of the pressure on Nick. Our team does not necessarily need him to score; we want him to score and he is capable of that. I am convinced that once he scores, it will open up for him. I think he’s a guy who’s capable of scoring big goals for us at big times. I think it’s coming. We need to continue to support him through this.

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