What they’ll be testing out at this summer’s NHL Research & Development Camp

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While summer can be boring for hockey fans, for those running the NHL August is a fun month of trying things out that could eventually become changes to the sport. The annual Research & Development Camp that happens in Ontario gives NHL leaders the chance to not just look at top prospects for next year’s draft but also to see what rule changes they can implement to improve the game.

At next week’s camp, they’ll be spending two days examining all sorts of different elements to the game both with rules and how technology can be used to better the game for officials as well. They’ll even be testing one rule out that used to exist in the NHL. Hey, give them points for being totally thorough. With Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett there to help lead the way in instruction, they’ve got two of the brighter minds in the game helping out as well.

The NHL’s senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan says there’s a method behind their madness when it comes to the rules and regulations they test out as NHL.com’s Dan Rosen found out.

“Whether we’re trying something that is a popular idea or an unpopular idea, all of it is done to just give us more information,”Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, told NHL.com. “This is all about us being proactive and not reactive. The game has never been better, but we don’t want to rest.”

As for what they’re looking at and testing this year, you can see the full list here but while they’ll be testing out a lot of the same things as they did last year (hybrid icing, no-touch icing) there’s a few new things they’re looking at this year including moving face-offs following an offside into the offending team’s zone, limiting line changes at stoppages in play and removing the trapezoid that restricts goaltenders’ puck-handling.

The last one listed there is the most stunning since that’s just how the NHL used to be. While you’re wondering why they need to test that out, it’s mostly because the game is faster and is played so much differently than it was while the league went without the trapezoid. Adding the trapezoid limits the goalie’s ability to handle the puck behind the net but also prevents us from seeing goalies that are poor at handling the puck away from the net committing awful turnovers that lead to embarrassing goals.

Other rules that will be tested again that make way too much sense to add include:

Using a second verification line in the goal to prove whether or not a puck fully crossed the line
It has no bearing on the flow of play and is needed simply for replay purposes. This is something they should have in place already… Unless on-ice officials would get confused seeing the puck cross the line on close plays.

Hybrid icing
This gives you the best of both worlds on icing plays. If the defending player beats the attacking player on a puck chase to the faceoff circle, icing is called. If not, it’s waved off and they can both pursue the puck as normal. It’s instituted this way in college hockey and works surprisingly well there. If you want to save injuries on puck chases, this is a good way to do it.

Serving full penalties
This is another rule that used to exist more than 20 years ago in the NHL but went away. In this one, a player serving a minor penalty sits for the full time. That way if you commit a dumb penalty and your team is really bad at killing them off, you can get punished badly. Having this coupled with how faceoffs come to the penalized team’s end already could boost scoring.

They’ll also be testing out different technology on the ice as well and these are changes that would make a ton of sense to have implemented already.

  • On-ice officials communication – ref-to-ref wireless
  • Overhead camera – to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)
  • In-net camera – mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals
  • Robotic camera – to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice
  • Video replay application review
  • Curved glass – protection options at players bench areas

Allowing officials to communicate with each other while far apart makes so much sense it hurts. For plays where there’s a goal mouth scrum and the puck is loose is where this would help the most. Anything that makes use of technology to assure whether or not a puck is across the line should be in place regardless. Robotic cameras would be especially helpful for high-sticking calls on goals to see whether or not a player did bat one in wrongly.

How these things test out in practical application will be fun to see the results of. While none of these things are ready to be put in place by the league as of yet, future rule changes can come to rise out of this.

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.

‘Hawks sign Kero to two-year extension

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Chicago has re-upped with winger Tanner Kero on a two-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.

Kero, 24, is in his second season with the ‘Hawks. He made his NHL debut in ’15-16 and has earned a more prominent role this year, scoring 12 points through 38 games.

Undrafted out of Michigan Tech, Kero parlayed a strong senior season — which included being a Hobey Baker finalist — into a contract with the ‘Hawks. He’s spent quite a bit of time in AHL Rockford, emerging as a quality goalscorer.

That said, Kero has developed a more well-rounded game with Chicago, and impressed head coach Joel Quenneville in the process.

“He’s reliable in a lot of ways,” Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “He puts himself in the right spot, down low in his own end, underneath coverage, and seems to be useful in killing penalties as well. There’s more offense in his game that hopefully can come around and add to his reliability defensively.

“We feel he’s done a good job of being a guy in the middle you can use and we like what he’s brought to our team in a position where, [earlier in] the year, I don’t know if he was forecast to be a regular like that. But he’s become more and more reliable, or used more.”

Financial details of the new contract weren’t released. Kero is in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million deal with a $667,500 average annual cap hit.

 

Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

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If the NHL was hoping the players would surrender something for the right to go to the Olympics in 2018, the NHL should think again, according to NHLPA chief Donald Fehr.

“Obviously the players are not about to engage in collective bargaining in return for getting an opportunity to go to the Olympics for which they aren’t being paid, where very valuable things would go elsewhere in return for that,” Fehr told ESPN today.

It was reported back in November that the NHL had offered to go to the Olympics, in return for the players accepting a CBA extension.

Not long after, it was reported that the NHLPA had rejected the league’s offer.

Looking ahead, the NHL may still be holding out for another party to offer some concessions — that party being the IOC.

“We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month, per FanSided. “We don’t get to use the rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say proud sponsor of the Olympics. They won’t let us do that…there’s no recognition of the value by the IOC and the IIHF that we bring to the Olympics.”

Read more: Bettman argues that Olympic participation hurts NHL product

Bettman’s latest Olympics update was not very positive.

“There are no negotiations ongoing,” he told Reuters earlier this week. “We were open to having discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the damage to our season but that had no resonance. As things stand now people should assume we are not going.”

Ristolainen suspended three games for hit that concussed Guentzel

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Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been suspended three games for interfering with Pens forward Jake Guentzel, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday.

Ristolainen was given a five-minute interference major and game misconduct for the hit in Tuesday night’s tilt, which left Guentzel bloodied and, as we later learned, with a concussion.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the diagnosis in his postgame presser.

Ristolainen, 22, didn’t have any prior history with the DoPS, which has yet to release a video explanation for the punishment. It could be argued that Guentzel was in a prone position, and that Ristolainen took advantage of it.

“I thought it was bad,” Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said of the hit, per the Buffalo News. “The puck doesn’t get to him. He’s looking to get the puck to get into the play, and the guy holds up a second and then he still goes through him.”

As a result of today’s announcement, Ristolainen will now sit out Buffalo’s game on Saturday against Toronto, Mar. 27 against Florida and Mar. 28 against Columbus. He’ll be eligible to return on Sunday, Apr. 2, when the Sabres take on the Isles.

Ristolainen will also forfeit $90,000 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.