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Bylsma, Tippett put potential rule changes to test

by Dan Rosen / Vancouver Canucks

Brendan Shanahan was eager to see how coaches Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett would try to manipulate some of the potential rule changes.

And how the 36 top prospects would handle being in the spotlight in front of a grandstand full of general managers and scouts on Wednesday morning at the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp.

He liked what he saw.

Bylsma and Tippett did try to use some of the potential rule changes to their advantage and the prospects, all draft eligible in 2012, hit the ice skating hard at 10 a.m. ET, expending all that nervous energy they had to have over two hours.

"That's what this camp is for -- pushing the envelope, trying things out, seeing what works and what doesn't," Shanahan, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations and Player Safety, said at the end of the first session at RDO Camp. "One of the things that may be a misconception is that we had to go out and test 30 new things, but quite honestly there are about 20 things we're repeating because we wanted to get more information and more data."

Shanahan had particular interest in seeing how the coaches and players would react to the rule change that precluded the shorthanded team from legally icing the puck during a power play.

"That was something the coaches were curious about and wanted to play around with," Shanahan said. "It was a good one."

Bylsma played along by pulling his goalie late in the second period when his team went on the power play. He figured the shorthanded team wouldn't want to shoot the puck down the ice for fear of an icing and an ensuing faceoff in its defensive zone, so the odds of scoring on a 6-on-4 far outweighed giving up a length-of-the-ice goal.

The strategy backfired when one of his players fell down, creating a shorthanded 2-on-1 going the other way that resulted in a goal.

"I said to Kinger, 'I just got fired,' " Bylsma joked to about a comment he made to NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King, who was serving as his assistant coach. "I can't wait for the media press conference after this game."

The session finished with a new format for overtime and a shootout. Overtime started with the teams skating 4-on-4 for four minutes and that was followed by 3-on-3 for three minutes.

The ice was definitely more wide open in 3-on-3 and Shanahan was intrigued.

"I like the 3-on-3," he said. "I enjoy the way overtime currently is, but I think 3-on-3 certainly is an interesting alternative if we ever need to go there one day."

The testing at RDO Camp isn't limited to potential rule changes. The NHL is also looking at various technology and safety innovations, including the verification line, which runs parallel to the goal line but is set back about three inches (the size of the puck) from the goal line.

The use of the verification line would solely be for video review of potential goals and wouldn't interfere with how the game is played, Shanahan said. In session one, there was a yellow line inside one goal and a green line inside the other.

"We've got different cameras and it was just a matter of what is easier for Hockey Operations to determine with that verification line, what color works best," Shanahan said. "I think the verification line is a really good idea that doesn't affect the game in how it's played in any way other than it would be of great assistance to Hockey Operations on certain goal reviews."

Other rules and innovations that were tested Wednesday morning include: no-touch icing, no changing lines after a team goes offside, moving a player who commits an infraction in the faceoff circle back one foot to take away his leverage, having every faceoff take place in a circle, making the same linesman drop the puck for every faceoff, and using a shallower net (shaved down by four inches) to provide more ice behind the net.

"This is research and development. It's what many corporations do and that's what we're doing," Shanahan said. "It's not any knee-jerk reaction to how we feel about the game. This is about being proactive."

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