After practice on Wednesday, Sheldon Keefe discussed the recent play of Alex Galchenyuk and provided updates on Frederik Andersen, Nick Foligno, Zach Hyman, and Riley Nash heading into the final four games of the regular season.
Can you update us first on Nick Foligno’s condition?
Keefe: There is not a whole lot of an update other than he is day to day. He won’t play tomorrow. I suspect he probably won’t play on Saturday, either. He is day to day here. We are just going to take it one day at a time.
There were a lot of interesting things in the practice today in regards to the lines. Would you say that they are going to stick for tomorrow’s game, with Stefan Nosen maybe playing and Adam Brooks sitting out?
Keefe: In terms of the forward lineup, we have some things with different players that we have to see about for tomorrow with how it shakes out. Guys are banged up and such. We wanted to get Noesen a look on a line here today just in the event that he does need to play. We will have more information on that tomorrow.
Is there an update on Frederik Andersen’s status?
Keefe: Today was an important day for him. It’s his second full practice with us today. All indications are that it went well. He is feeling good. With that being the case, the plan is for him to go on a conditioning loan to the Marlies tomorrow. He will play half of a game tomorrow with the Marlies, who are playing tomorrow afternoon. That is just a good way for him to get himself back into it. Things will be reassessed from there.
What is the status of Zach Hyman? Is there a timeline coming into focus for his return?
Keefe: There is not a lot of indication there. We don’t have a lot of games left, obviously. The fact that he is in a non-contact jersey and is not doing everything with us today is a sign to me that he is not going to be available this week. I would put Riley Nash in that situation as well.
That leaves us with just the two remaining games. Obviously, the practice progression is something that is going to happen as well. Getting him on the ice today was a nice thing in terms of just having their presence here — Nash, in particular, as he is a new member of the team.
As to when they will actually play, we will just have to see how they progress through the week.
Is Nash a guy who, if he is available and healthy, you see as an option to slot in for Game 1 of the playoffs?
Keefe: He is an option for sure. How he recovers here and all of those kinds of things are going to be factors, but we brought him in here because we like some of the attributes that he can bring to our team.
It is a strange situation in a strange season given that there is such a short amount of time between the trade deadline and the playoffs. For an injured player, that time gets even shorter.
He is definitely an option for us. That is why it is important to get him out there as much as we can doing what he can while he is continuing his rehab.
With Nick Foligno’s injury, how can you minimize the impact of the missed time for him as he was looking to get more comfortable with the new team?
Keefe: In terms of his own game, how he is feeling with our team, and how he is adjusting, I think he is already past that point. We are in a good place there. He is very comfortable. His teammates are comfortable with him.
Obviously, I was looking to move things around and try him in different spots in the lineup. It is something that, with him missing some time this week, will impact my ability to do that. It also has a trickle-down effect on other lines.
You couple it with not having Hyman, and it changes the look of our lineup significantly. There is an impact there for sure, but his health is the most important thing right now. We are just going to take that a day at a time, get him back to full health, and get him up to speed as quickly as we can.
Alex Galchenyuk said he thought he could be better for a stretch there. In the last couple of games, how would you assess his play? Do you think he has rebounded a little bit?
Keefe: I would say so. He has done a better job for us for sure. I have talked to him quite a bit — probably more than any of our players here the little while — just to try to get his game playing at a real high level. I think he is an important player for us. He has been getting a lot of opportunities. I think he has done a good job of it.
We want to see him continue to be that reliable presence on that line in terms of his forechecking, his tracking, his defending, making a play when it is available, staying out of the penalty box — all of those kinds of things that continue to help us.
I definitely have seen an uptick there. He scored a big goal for us the other night against Vancouver. I’ve liked a lot of things that he has done really since he has been here. He has been a good player for us.
He has set a really high standard for himself and how he plays. Now we have an expectation that he can remain there.
Can you address how you keep the team focused on what is directly in front of them over this next week or so rather than looking a bit too far ahead?
Keefe: It is a challenge. We can’t really hide from that. We have these games remaining here. We also have the fact that we haven’t clinched our position or secured our position in terms of where we are going to be in the division — first or second. You also have the fact that you want to keep your game consistent and be feeling good about your game. You want to keep pushing the group and working towards that.
At the same time, our players and our team know that they are going to be judged on what happens in the playoffs. That is what is most important. We have an eye towards that. That is a balance for us as a coaching staff.
In terms of how we stay focused on it, it is just to really stay focused on, it really. We have talked about taking it each day as it comes and focusing on today with our practice and focusing on Montreal. It will be the same thing when we come to the rink tomorrow: We’ll just focus on Montreal and look to get back in the win column.
That is really all we can do. Of course, it is in the players’ minds and the coaches’ minds that you are at that stage where you want the playoffs to begin, and they are not going to. We have to take it a day at a time. Every day is a new day and brings an opportunity for us to continue to get better. We have to focus on that.