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Sheldon Keef’s Big Turnaround for Leafs

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Ahead of Saturday night, the Maple Leafs faced the daunting task of facing three teams in four days with a combined record of 28-5-1.

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By the end of this Tuesday’s game, Toronto may be celebrating a sweep and just a few points off first place in the conference. Or to defeat the enemy.

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“That’s what we talked about heading into the week, let’s get better one day at a time,” said coach Sheldon Keef, who has beaten the Hurricanes, the Bruins and is gearing up for the Vegas Golden Knights. “The results we got are very positive, but we focused on our game, played well, gave ourselves chances to win and didn’t beat ourselves.

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“We’re playing against a very good team this weekend (2-1 in Boston, 3-1 in Raleigh) and being on the right side of things definitely helps the group brag. It’s important to go back.”

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“The season is long, a lot can happen, and we are confident in our team despite a poor road trip. I like the reaction of

No one would have flogged the Leafs had they lost to Rod Brindamore’s disciplined team on Sunday.

However, Toronto frustrated the canes for much of the night as their first line misfired and recruited third goaltender Eric Kalgren. Auston Matthews failed to shoot and Toronto scored a total of 21 goals, but he still scored two points.

“It’s been a great weekend, but it’s time to reset for Tuesday,” said winger Mitch Marner.

The Knights no doubt scouted this Leaf mini-resurrection and know they beat the West 3-1 at home to 13 shots in the final two periods. This will also be his second time seeing Kallgren after Keefe bet two weeks before him. He will be ready for such a high-profile start while keeping Ilya Samsonov fresh.

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Samsonov has been sidelined for at least a week with a knee injury, meaning he will face Tuesday’s home game against Calgren and this weekend’s two home games against Pittsburgh and Vancouver.

“The team defended him pretty well,” Keough said of Calgren in the Carolina game. If you had more than that, it wasn’t that much.

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“There was a lot of activity, a lot of traffic with pucks being thrown into the net, but he was solid. Good win for him.”

Another net assignment for the weekend goes to either rookie Keith Petruzelli or Matt Murray. I plan to measure.

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One difference with Toronto since their last matchup against Vegas is that Keef can handle the forward line better. Experimentation seemed to yield a more effective bottom 6, with his fourth group of David Kamp centered on Dennis Malgin and Zach Aston Reese holding on for the final few games.

When Top Gun isn’t clicking, such as early Sunday, Keough has found effective new partners for Matthews, Marner and Michael Bunting, and isn’t afraid to take William Nylander out of his comfort zone with John Tavares. Hmm.

As Keough pointed out, pushing those buttons can have unsettling effects on other teams, who often revolve their plans around stopping All-Stars Matthews and Marner. I have.

Keefe is willing to worry about another guy stopping his team after being hooked on him for the better part of October.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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Sheldon Keef’s Big Turnaround for Leafs

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