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Overtime procedures a focal point for GMs at meeting

by Shawn Roarke

TORONTO -- For the first time this season, the League's general managers will meet as a group here Tuesday to discuss the state of the game and suggest measures to be furthered explored.

Overtime will be a major part of the discussion at the League office, with the league looking at the measures instituted this season, the dry scrape at the start of overtime and having the teams change sides for the overtime period, as well as other potential tweaks will be discussed. There will be further discussion about adopting a three-on-three overtime session.

This season, the NHL switched from resurfacing the ice -- without the ice-surfacing machines using water -- from the start of the shootout to the start of overtime. The thought, at the time, was that better playing conditions at the start of overtime would lead to more opportunities for goals during the five-minute stretch of 4-on-4 play. The League also decided to have teams change ends in overtime, creating further chance for game-deciding goals to happen before the game reached the shootout tiebreaker.

While the preliminary evidence suggests that the modifications are working and more goals are being scored in the overtime sessions, some general managers are concerned that the down time, usually around five minutes, created by the dry scrape process is robbing games of their momentum.

Another overtime aspect is also expected to be discussed Tuesday: 3-on-3 overtime format.

The NHL has considered this proposal more than once as it has been advocated for by Detroit general manager Ken Holland at several meetings. This season, though, there is some empirical evidence to be studied in conjunction with the proposal. The American Hockey instituted 3-on-3 OT procedures this season.

In the AHL model, the teams play 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play, at which time full strength is reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period.

That system has greatly reduced the number of games reaching the shootout in the AHL. Through Nov. 10, there had been 36 games which went to overtime and 30 of them were decided in the overtime period, including 14 in the newly introduced 3-on-3 portion of the overtime.

Last season, 65 percent of games that went to OT in the AHL were decided by the shootout. As of Nov. 10, six of 36 games reached the shootout tiebreaker.

The measures put in place this season to curb embellishment by the players will be discussed. Instant replay and the situations it will cover in the future will also be a topic.

Several departments in the League will also present reports to the managers. The managers will spend several months studying the topics brought up in the meeting on Tuesday and will discuss them in even more detail when they meet again in March in Boca Raton, Fla.

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