You don't need to be a fortune teller to know that the Rangers and Flyers will be playing overtime when they meet in pre-season action Tuesday night at the wells Fargo Center. That's because the NHL has mandated each team play a trio of overtime games this pre-season to test out the new three-on-three format that is replacing the four-on-four one.
However, how will the new three-on-three play out tonight? No one seems to know quite for sure actually.
"At this time I am not really quite sure what to expect," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said following the team's morning skate Tuesday. "I would say I'd start with one (defenseman) and two forwards, but I might not hesitate during camp to see with a faceoff in the other end three forwards out there. We've got three games in exhibition to experiment, and we're going to use them all."
Vigneault said he and members of his coaching staff have contacted coaches and personnel they each know at the AHL level for advice, since the three on three format was introduced in the minor leagues last season. The Rangers, though, have yet to have time to practice the three on three so far in training camp, meaning everyone will be playing it by instinct this evening.
There are several players in the Rangers lineup tonight who have experience playing three on three, and almost to man they think it's an exciting way to try and decide the final outcomes on games after 60 minutes of regulation play.
"I think it is awesome," forward Ryan Bourque stated emphatically. "I think it speeds up the game, opens up the ice and creates way more offense. It's a lot of fun to watch for the fans, and, other than the fatigue level, it's a lot of fun for the players, as well. It's a lot different systematically then five on five, so it gives the game a different look; and I think it really shows the attributes of the more skilled players."
Forward Jayson Megna agreed with Bourque.
"I think it's just fun for the fans and fun for the guys with so much open ice out there, and it really allows guys the chance to use their speed and skill out there," offered Megna. "You see a lot of odd-man rushes; and I think it's a great way to end a game early before a shootout."
Bourque agreed with Vigneault that the "standard" approach is to play two forwards and one defenseman, but added that no matter who is out there breakaways and odd-man rushes are inevitable.
"It's pretty much man on man, so it's very different from five on five," explained Bourque. "You can get stuck out there, whether in the offensive or defensive zones, for a long period of time. It can really wear you out. You see a lot of two on one and three on one breakaways."
Not surprisingly one player in the dressing room on Tuesday who was not the biggest fan of three on three in overtime was goaltender Magnus Hellberg.
"It's really to fun to watch I think, but to play (as a goalie) it's a lot of turnovers, and it's chaos really," Hellberg told BlueshirtsUnited.com with a laugh. "There's almost no good time to get a (line) change because people are flying all over. I can understand the other players love it. They can make great plays, three on ones, breakaways. I think as a goalie it's different. Rebounds are very important; and you need to be more active with your stick to create turnovers and start the play quickly the other way."