Training Camp Buzz: Matthews to get work on penalty kill for Maple Leafs

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Welcome to the 2020-21 NHL training camp buzz. Training camp is underway for all 31 teams and NHL.com has you covered with all the latest news.

 
Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews will be used on the penalty kill at times for the Maple Leafs this season, coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday.

“I don’t expect it to be any sort of full-time role or responsibility, but on a part time basis as needed,” Keefe said. “We want to start getting him comfortable with those situations, and face-offs in particular, in an area where he can bring a lot for us on the left side. 

Matthews, who will practice with the penalty-killing unit Friday, had 2:29 of shorthanded ice time last season and has played a total of 7:34 shorthanded in his four NHL seasons.

“We’ve seen so much growth as a defensive player that we believe he can bring a lot to the penalty kill,” Keefe said. “And obviously the offensive threat that he is on the ice brings an addition to some of our other penalty killers a lot too. So we’re going to start to get him some minutes in that regard.”

Matthews has scored 285 points (158 goals, 127 assists) in 282 NHL games but has yet to score a shorthanded point. The Maple Leafs won 43.1 percent of face-offs while shorthanded last season, but Matthews could help in that regard. He won 55.0 percent of his face-offs last season.

The Maple Leafs ranked 21st in the League last season on the penalty kill (77.7 percent). — Mike Zeisberger

 
Ottawa Senators

Tim Stuetzle, Derek Stepan and Erik Brannstrom are expected to join the Senators on the ice Sunday after finishing their respective quarantines, coach D.J. Smith said. 

Stuetzle, the 18-year-old forward who was the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, arrived in Ottawa late Saturday after serving as captain for Germany at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. He scored 10 points (five goals, five assists), averaging 25:40 of ice time in five games, and was named the tournament’s best forward.

Stepan, a center who was acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 26, did not arrive in Ottawa until last Sunday because of the birth of his child.

Brannstrom, a defenseman, has been in protocol after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 last week. — Mike Zeisberger 

 
New York Rangers

Mika Zibanejad is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, coach David Quinn said Wednesday.

The center, who has missed the first three days of training camp, led the Rangers with 41 goals and was second with 75 points last season.

“I think that he’s day to day and from all indications he should be ready for opening night,” Quinn said. “We’re expecting him back soon. I’d be a lot more worried if we were three or four days away.”

The Rangers open their season against the New York Islanders on Jan. 14.

Artemi Panarin, who led the Rangers with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) last season, did not practice, but Quinn said the forward will participate in a scrimmage Thursday.  — Tracey Myers

 

Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel and Linus Ullmark took part in practice with the Sabres for the first time during training camp Wednesday.

Eichel, a center, had been day to day since Friday with an upper-body injury sustained while training prior to camp. Ullmark, a goalie, finished his quarantine because of an immigration issue.

“Today was a good test for me to get out there and be on the ice with a lot more bodies than I’m used to,” Eichel said. “So I’m feeling all right, right now. I think it’s good. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the ice with that many guys, so I feel like I was a couple of steps behind today. But hopefully it starts coming back and I start feeling like myself again.”

Coach Ralph Krueger said the intensity level at practice increased with the return of Eichel, Ullmark and forward Victor Olofsson, who was injured at practice Monday. 

“Jack is clearly our leader and on the ice, so to have him back, his presence back was excellent,” Krueger said. “We know the genius of Jack. He’ll find his way quickly. It was good to see [Olofsson] back, Jack back, especially with Zemgus [Girgensons] falling down, having those two return, Linus in the net. Everything just seemed to go up a notch.”

Girgensons had surgery for a hamstring injury and is expected to be out for the season. The forward was helped off the ice after trying to check teammate Steven Fogarty in a scrimmage Monday. Girgensons fell awkwardly after Fogarty avoided the hit.

“It’s a big loss in our lineup, but it’s a big loss personality-wise because he brings a lot to our group on and off the ice,” Eichel said. “So we’re going miss him deeply. He’ll have a good recovery and he’ll be back before we know it. But, yeah, it’s unfortunate that you lose him for as long as you do.” — Heather Engel

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