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Stars Talk Proposed Overtime Changes

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The NHL could have a new look to overtime as early as next season. General Managers Tuesday recommended the introduction of 3-on-3 overtime for regular season play to help reduce the number of games settled in shootouts.

“The consensus in the room, overwhelmingly, is we're not getting rid of the shootout. It was, how do you reduce the number of games that go to the shootout, keep the shootout special?" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Boca Raton, Florida.

Exactly how the overtime would look is still being discussed. The overtime changes would still need to go through the competition committee and NHL’s Board of Governors.

Dallas Stars players, for the most part, were on board with possible changes to overtime and including 3-on-3 play.

“I think it’s good to think of a way to get less shootouts in the game. There have been so many of them over the last ten years,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “I am for looking for some kind of change to make a different way of deciding games. I am not sure how they are going to do it. I don’t think adding time to overtime is the way to go.”

Stars forward Curtis McKenzie has some experience with 3-on-3 overtime. He started the season in the AHL, where there is a seven-minute overtime this season that is a mix of 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 play.

“I really enjoy it. It’s exciting hockey,” McKenzie said of 3-on-3 play. “It’s still a team game where the shootout is more individual. I think it would be a good change.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he likes the idea as well, especially since there is a chance the game is more likely to be settled with the two teams still playing.

“For me, it would be a more exciting way to finish a game because you are still playing hockey, and there are still mistakes being made,” Ruff said. “If you get a scoring chance where a couple players are in it, you are going to get a scoring chance going the other way.”

Tapping the brakes on all this was Stars goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who wasn’t quite sure why the issue of reducing shootouts is even a topic of discussion.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard one guy that doesn’t like the shootout. Who doesn’t like it? I haven’t heard anyone who doesn’t like it,” said Enroth, who is 6-0 in shootouts this season. “They are on their feet during the shootout. Everyone loves it. I am not sure why we are talking about this. It’s disappointing.”

But Enroth appears to be in the minority, and the NHL could be heading towards a system with the goal of reducing the number of shootouts. This season in the NHL 147 of 257 games (57.2 percent) that have gone beyond regulation have been settled in a shootout.

The American Hockey League’s system that includes 3-on-3 overtime this season has dramatically decreased the number of shootouts. Of the 224 games that have gone beyond regulation in the AHL this season, 171 (76.3 percent) have been settled in the 4-on-4/3-on-3 overtime, and 53 (23.7 percent) have gone to a shootout.

That’s a big change over last season when the league was using five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime. In 2013-14, there were 275 games that went beyond regulation and 97 games (35.3 percent) were settled in OT and 178 (64.7 percent) went to a shootout.

So, the league has seen the number of games settled in a shootout drop from 65 percent to just under 24 percent with implementation of a model using 3-on-3 overtime.

“It’s really exciting to watch, and it settles a lot of games,” AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews told Sportsnet The Fan 590 Tuesday. “[We settle] lot more than we did before in overtime. And it is fun to watch for the fans.”

Still, there have been some issues with the AHL model. The AHL system features 4-on-4 play for the first three minutes followed by 3-on-3 play after the first whistle past the three-minute mark. The amount of 3-on-3 time in each overtime can vary, depending on when the first whistle comes and if it comes at all.

“Having seen it now, my own personal opinion is, I would go to [3-on-3] right off the hop,” Andrews said. “What we’ve seen sometimes is that there are no stoppages, and we have gone through a full seven minutes without ever getting to 3-on-3. And sometimes we don’t get to the 3-on-3 fast enough.”

What kind of model the NHL might use is still up in the air. The league is expected to look at both the AHL model and one that includes five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.

Coach’s challenge

NHL General Managers also recommended a coach’s challenge be implemented in two cases. One would involve the question of goaltender interference on scoring plays. Those would be plays involving contact with the goaltender.

The other would be on delay-of-game penalties on players for shooting the puck out of play in the defensive zone. That one would only be used to challenge a penalty, not to call one.

Teams must have a timeout to make a challenge, and if the call isn’t overturned then the team would lose its timeout and its ability to challenge for the rest of the game.

The competition committee and NHL Board of Governors need to approve the challenge recommendations.

Stars practice notes

After having Monday off, the Stars were back on the ice for practice Tuesday morning. Here are a few notes.

*Defenseman John Klingberg, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, appears ready to return to the lineup when the Stars play Pittsburgh on Thursday.

*Forward Valeri Nichushkin, who has been out since undergoing hip surgery in November, continues to practice with the team.

“Val is just day to day,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We have no set timetable for him.”

*Forward Travis Moen, who has been out since Feb. 17 with an upper-body injury, practiced with the team Tuesday.

“It’s his first day back so we’ll see how he made it through practice,” Ruff said. “He looked like he is ready to go full go in practice.”

*Ruff said Trevor Daley, who skated on his own Tuesday, appears to be 5-10 days away.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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