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New rules get varied reactions from players, coaches

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

LAS VEGAS -- The NHL's adoption of 3-on-3 overtime would appear to be tailor-made for a player such as Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The new rules adopted by the NHL Board of Governors on Wednesday include a change to the faceoff protocol and the introduction of a coach's challenge as well as the new overtime format.

The speed and playmaking ability of the two-time Norris Trophy winner would figure to make Karlsson a dominant force under the new overtime rules, and it's logical to assume he would be excited to have the opportunity to show off his skills with all that open ice.

But that was not the case.

"Yes and no, because you play even more sometimes," Karlsson said shortly after receiving the Norris Trophy at the NHL Awards on Wednesday. "It's one of those things that yes, I do think it's going to end more games in [overtime], but at the same time it's going to put a lot more pressure on some people that log a lot of minutes and it's going to be hard on your body playing 3-on-3.

"But at the same time, it's a lot of fun. For me it doesn't really matter. I think everybody plays to win in regulation, and if it goes to overtime I think everyone plays to win there too. I don't think anyone is doing anything they can to get to the shootout. If you get there yes, it's a bit of a lottery, but at the same time I think it's a good show. We have a lot of good, talented guys who can make it interesting."

Another offensive-minded defenseman, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, had a decidedly different viewpoint. He thought 4-on-4 overtime was already very exciting, but adding even more room on the ice should create some fireworks.

"I know it'll be exciting," Burns said. "I think you get some guys out here with the skill that they have, it's probably not going to go the distance."

The intent of the rule change was to have more games end in overtime and reduce the number decided in shootouts. This season 55.6 percent of games that went past regulation required a shootout (170 of 306); the hope is that the new rule will drive that number down.

"I'm sure it's going to be a lot of skill, it's going to be pretty fast," Burns said. "It's going to be small, skilled plays at the net. They probably want to do it to get rid of as many shootouts as possible, and I'm sure it's going to."

Burns does not feel that 3-on-3 overtime will reduce the impact of coaching systems on the game, as some might have hoped.

"If you look at the past, every time they've made a rule change, one or two coaches I'm sure will figure out a way to shut down whatever it is and everyone kind of adopts it," Burns said. "It's like when they took out the red line. Everybody thought the red line would make it like a crazy, breakaway-filled game. But they found a way to shut that down."

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron hasn't made up his mind on the new rule governing faceoffs that will force the defensive team's player to put his stick on the ice first on most faceoffs, a change from the road team player having to do it in the past.

Bergeron, consistently one of the top faceoff men in the NHL, said centers will adjust to the new rule. He was undecided on whether having to put a stick down first represented a real disadvantage in the faceoff circle.

"It really depends on who you're facing," said Bergeron, who won the Selke Trophy as the League's top defensive forward for the third time in his career.

Coaches will have the opportunity to challenge goals scored on potential goaltender interference and offside plays as of next season, with the referees using monitors at ice level to review the play.

Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley was happy the NHL has given him the option. But he said the ultimate goal was to make sure the calls on the ice are correct, not to further empower coaches.

"It's a tool for the sport of hockey to get the right calls at the right moments," said Hartley, who won his first Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. "There will be a certain strategy involved because we'll need to have our timeout. It won't be anything personal against the referees, our sport has become so fast. It's just a tool to improve our sport."

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