A penalty shot in hockey has traditionally been called the most exciting situation in sports. It's not a homerun hitting contest where batting practice balls are being tossed, both the shooter and the goaltender are trying their best. It's the purity of hockey - a scorer one-on-one with the netminder.
Pacific Division clubs averaged 14 ties during the 2003-04 campaign, but in 2005-06, those contests will have a winner every time.
For every preseason contests prior to this season, a shootout will be demonstrated, whether the game is tied at three, or a 10-0 route. What was primarily an occasional fun drill after practice could now become vital to the outcome of close to 20 percent of NHL games.
"I think it's good to let guys get the feeling of it so they won't be shocked during the season," said Johnathan Cheechoo.
Teams will have to be mentally prepared every game for a possible shootout.
"Last year we'd do it as a drill once a week," said Wayne Primeau. "We'll probably practice it a lot more now."
And it won't be just for the shootouts. With the tighter enforcement of NHL rules, fans can expect to see more penalty shots called during the regular season if players don't adapt.
"I'm all for more penalty shots," said Mark Smith. "It's part of the game. With the shootout, we'll have to see if it helps or hurts our team. We've definitely got guys who can make goalies look stupid and we've got a long list of guys who can put the puck in the net. The shootout should help us."
The rarity of an in-game penalty shot can be found in the form of Cheechoo, who tied Patrick Marleau for the team's goal scoring lead in 2003-04.
"I've taken one penalty shot in my career," said Cheechoo. "I don't think I've had another since I was 14."
While netminders will stand front and center for the shootout, and forwards will be the likely shooters, defensemen will probably be left cheering from the bench.
"That's fine with me," said Brad Stuart. "I'm not a penalty shot kind of guy. The forwards get paid to score goals and I'd rather they do it than me."
Still, if the sudden-death scenario runs deep enough, even the blueliners could be called upon.
"I've got to be ready and practice," said Stuart.
The one guarantee is that fans will see someone win and someone lose in every NHL game this season.
"Every game will end with a winner and I personally like it," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. "It's going to be a fun year."
The rules for shootouts during the preseason follow below:
Following the conclusion of regulation time or overtime there will be a two-minute break, during which the ice resurfacing machine will conduct a "dry cut," making approximately four passes down the center of the ice surface between the goals but adding no water to the surface.
One referee will proceed to each bench to obtain the list of three shooters from each team. All players will proceed to the bench, with the exception of the player who is taking the first shot.
One referee and one linesman will situate himself on either side of the home-team goal line. The other linesman will place a puck on the center-ice face-off dot.
A new puck will be used at the commencement of the shootout for each team and the teams will alternate shots with the visiting team shooting first.
Each team will be given three shots unless the outcome is determined earlier in the shootout. A team will be deemed to have won the shootout if its total of shootout goals is greater than what its opponent can attain in the number of rounds remaining.
If the score remains tied after each team has taken three shots, the shootout will proceed to a "sudden-death" format.
In "sudden death," no player who participated in the original shootout may attempt a second shot until every other eligible player on that team has taken a shot. It will be the responsibility of the official scorer to ensure that every player eligible to shoot has taken a shot.
In "sudden death," if one team scores and the other doesn't, the game is over. If the first "sudden death" round results in a tie, additional rounds are conducted until a winner is decided.
Once the shootout begins, the goaltender cannot be replaced unless he is injured and no warm-up will be permitted for a substitute goaltender.
The Sharks held their first scrimmage during the main camp with Team Black taking a 3-2 victory. Team Gray opened and closed the scoring with tallies from recently signed free agent Josh Langfeld and Cheechoo, however it was three unanswered goals from Marleau, Ryane Clowe and Niko Dimitrakos that won the game. Dimitrakos also added an assist.
For Team Black, Vesa Toskala stopped seven of eight shots and Dimitri Patzold stopped 13 of 14 shots to take the victory. Evgeni Nabokov turned away eight of the nine shots he faced, while Nolan Schaefer stopped 15 of 17 for Team Gray.
One of the biggest hits of the scrimmage came when Christian Ehrhoff caught Mark Smith along the boards.
The teams played two 30 minute halves and will do the same at 11 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. All practices are at Logitech Ice and will be opened to the public.