NHL experimenting with rule changes

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

The MasterCard Centre doors opened to a three-ring circus on Wednesday.

As part of the NHL’s research and development camp, one of the four pads was re-configured to incorporate just three huge faceoff dots, 32 feet directly in front of each goal and the traditional centre dot. The other six were erased for the game involving 2011 draft prospects.

There was also a wider blueline to give the attacking team an edge, blue paint in front of the benches to establish a proper change zone and a yellow line behind the red goal strip to better assist overhead video replays.

“That was pretty cool” laughed defenceman Keegan Lowe, son of Oilers exec Kevin Lowe. “It (the three new circles) was bizarre. We had to figure out a game plan, where to line up. After three periods, we were used to it. In the defensive zone, we had to line up five across. But the offensive team has to struggle with it, too.”

Goalie John Gibson found it hard “getting my bearings” with faceoff traffic lining up in front of him, noting that anything that puts a stopper off his angle is an invitation to score to well-trained snipers.

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s new vice-president of hockey and business operations, drew the line at trying larger nets again this year, but did allow them to be painted red to distinguish them from the ice and the boards to see if shooters improved.

“My focus here is not on getting any (rule changes) in quickly,” Shanahan said. “There’s no timetable. We’re really happy with the way the game is right now, but not resting on our laurels.

No-touch icing

“Why wait for something to get broken? This is just one way for us to look at our game and seeing a way we may eventually improve.”

Among the experiments was a variation on no-touch icing that will leave the call in the linesman’s hands if he feels there is no chance the attacking player will get to the puck first, thus preventing the dangerous high-speed collisions into the boards.

“For the one or two times it’s going to be a questionable call, it’s a safe way to play it,” guest coach Ken Hitchcock said.

— Hornby


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