SUN Hockey Pool

Welcome to the goal age

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

You wanted more goals? You're going to get them.

The revamped NHL rulebook seeks to reward offensive creativity and punish slower, sluggish teams.

Whether it's the crackdown on obstruction or the elimination of the red line, fans are excited to see a faster, more skilled version of the game when the NHL finally returns to the ice.

We asked a few members of the Calgary Flames what they thought about the rule changes.

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SHOOTOUT

* Following a scoreless five-minute OT, three players from each team will take part in the shootout. If the score is still tied after three shooters, the shootout proceeds to a sudden death format.

No rule change has received as much attention as the 'Showdown'. Defenceman Jordan Leopold, who will likely be a spectator during the penalty-shot procedure, is convinced it'll be a crowd pleaser.

"Fans are going to love it," Leopold says. "I remember watching IHL hockey as a kid in St. Paul, Minn., back when the Manitoba Moose were in Minnesota.

"Everybody wanted to see a tie so they could get on their feet for about 10 minutes and watch the 1-on-0 against the goalie."

Flames goaltending coach David Marcoux said he'll be dedicating a large chunk of training camp towards preparing his 'tenders for the shootout.

"We'll be spending a lot of time on breakaways because there's no centre line and also with the shootouts at the end of a tied game," Marcoux says. "We'll be working the video and analyzing players' tendencies. It'll basically be the same five players on each team. Everybody knows we'll be sending Jarome Iginla.

"So we'll use the video to determine whether he's a shooter or a deker, from what distance does he shoot, those kinds of details. When a player is under pressure to win a hockey game, he'll go to his best move."

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NO RED LINE

* The centre line will now be ignored for offside purposes, allowing two-line passes.

Flames forward Matthew Lombardi is looking forward to being able to wheel through the neutral zone and accept a long breakaway pass.

"I'm anxious to see how it opens the game up," Lombardi says. "I think I played once or twice without a red line at a tournament. So I don't have a lot of experience with it but I'm pumped about it.

"It'll be interesting to see what systems teams will be using against it."

Winger Chuck Kobasew has experience with playing sans red line.

"I played with no red line in college," Kobasew says. "That should be interesting. It'll be a bit of an adjustment period for everyone. But the defencemen are so good, they'll make adjustments.

"You'll probably see one or two more breakaways, a couple more 2-on-1s which will create scoring chances."

Leopold, a mobile, puck-moving d-man, could play a major role in springing the Flames forwards with the long bomb.

"I'm looking forward to all the changes," Leopold says. "Not having a red line will open up a few more lanes here and there.

"But the neutral zone will be shrunk by a few feet so I think it'll have a minimal impact compared to some of the other changes."

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SMALL GOALIES

* The dimensions of goaltender equipment will be reduced by approximately 11%. The pads' width will be shrunk by one inch (to 11 in.). The glove, chest protector, pants and jersey will also be reduced.

Marcoux will be a busy man in camp. In addition to working on penalty shots, his 'tenders will have to adapt to using smaller equipment.

"Eddie Belfour was talking about the difference with the pads and everyone seems to be talking about that," Marcoux says. "But with the pants, the chest protector and the glove, there will be some adjustments that have to be made.

"During the pre-season practices, we'll be working on some of those elements and closing up some of the holes that might appear."

Marcoux doesn't think the smaller equipment will impact Kiprusoff as much as some of the other goalies around the league.

"Goaltenders might have to challenge a little bit more to close up the angle," he says. "But for Miikka, he's not a blocker, he's a stopper. Goaltenders like him and Jose Theodore, I don't think you'll see a lot more goals getting past them."

The smaller gear, Marcoux says, will expose weaker goaltenders from those who are technically sound.

"Being methodical from a technical standpoint will always remain extremely important and that's what I'm harping on every day," he says. "But, with the changes, we'll be able to separate the great goaltenders from the talented ones, from the guys who have taken advantage of the space coverage the big equipment provided."

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STAYING HOME

* Goalies may only play the puck behind the goal-line in a trapezoid-shaped area.

With goaltenders prohibited from wandering out to play the puck, forechecking forwards such as Lombardi will target the corners for dump-ins.

"Guys won't be rimming it as much, or if you are, it'll have to be a hard rim," Lombardi says. "The goalies won't be allowed to be that extra defenceman."

Kobasew said he didn't see a big change when introduced to the rule in the AHL.

"I didn't notice a big difference with the lines behind the nets for the goalies," he says. "Most goalies are good at playing the puck no matter what. I guess the Turcos and the Brodeurs won't be able to wander as much."

The restrictions won't affect Kiprusoff, who doesn't typically overplay the puck.

Marcoux says the new legislation will take the guesswork out of the goaltender's job.

"We seen it in the AHL and I talked with Brent Krahn, who witnessed it last year, and it makes the goaltender's job that much more comfortable," Marcoux says. "Sometimes, goaltenders had a tendency to go out there to the corner and make a higher-risk play.

"Having worked with a lot of Quebec-style goaltenders, it's not an element -- other than Martin Brodeur -- of their game."

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BIGGER ZONES

* The bluelines will be moved closer together and the nets are to be moved two feet closer to the end boards.

Moving the nets back will change how offensive defencman operate in the attacking zone, Marcoux says.

"A Robyn Regehr slapshot that hits the back boards, the rebound is that much more dangerous because the goaltender has less time to react," he says.

"That's a play we'll be seeing a lot more of. Our defencemen know their forward will be checking them. So instead of trying to hit the net and having a breakaway go the other way because it hit the forward in the shinpads, the d-man will send it hard off the backboards."

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CRACKDOWN

* The officials have a mandate for zero tolerance on interference, hooking, holding and obstruction.

If the officials don't put their whistles away after a month or so, the crackdown could have the biggest impact of all.

And that's music to the ears of Lombardi, who earns his living with his quick feet.

"It should open up the game and let the guys who can skate and move the puck have some room," he says. "It should be exciting and more enjoyable for the fans."

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FIGHTING

* Any player receiving an instigator penalty in the final five minutes will also pick up a one-game suspension.

Like virtually everyone else, Flames tough guy Brantt Myhres would rather talk about the more glamorous rule changes.

"I'm usually the guy who takes the shootouts," jokes Myhres, who hasn't scored an NHL goal since the 1998-99 campaign.

"So I'll have to work on that so Darryl can throw me in there."

Seriously, the only rule Myhres will have to deal with is the instigator penalty. But he says enforcers operate according to their own rules.

"Most heavyweights are willing to fight each other anyways in the last five minutes," he says. "You don't have to sucker a guy to get him to go.

"So I don't think it'll be an issue for the tough guys. They respect each other enough and know their role. If things get out of hand, we take care of it. But we're not going to be running around suckerin' guys."


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