5 interesting rules the NHL will test at the R&D Camp

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For the second year in a row, Brendan Shanahan and his cohorts at the NHL league office will play with their own personal mad-science lab in Toronto next week. The league plans on testing out rules that have no chance of ever passing, rules that already should be in the league, and rules that are being tested just to appease a certain general manager in the area. Some of the rules are subtle changes that could have big-time effects on the game if implemented. Then there are other changes that will stick out like John Scott at a midget convention. Hopefully there won’t be any images like this one from last year’s R&D camp. That thing never had a chance.

James Mirtle over at The Globe and Mail took a look at some of the potential rule changes that caught his attention. In the same spirit, here are five of the rule changes that caught our eye:

1. Offside variation (offending team can’t change and face-off in its end zone)
Fans reactions to the dreaded offside call on a 3-2 odd-man rush would go from “how hard is it to stay onside” to the more dire “if they score on this faceoff, I’m going down to the locker room after the game to yell at so-and-so.” It’s understandable for the punitive measures taken to discourage icing, but this seems like an extreme measure to eliminate a play that is often caused by over-aggressiveness. If anything, this could discourage speed in the neutral zone and cause players to be more cautious when they’re on the attack. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what the league has been trying to promote?

2. ‘Hybrid’ icing
They might as well keep testing this rule until the GMs have the good sense of passing it into law. It’s clear that with the increased speed of today’s game (without obstruction) and without the help of goaltenders handling the puck, the most routine icing play has become dangerous for the defenseman chasing the loose puck. Watching international events that employ no-touch icing shows that there’s still a time and place for the end-zone chase. It’s frustrating to watch when an offensive player is clearly going to get to the puck first only to have the play blown dead. Hybrid icing brings the best of both worlds: it allows players to chase the puck, but protects defensemen in a vulnerable position.

3. Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)
This is a rule that has a ton of potential. The league has tried to implement rules that the offending team has had to control the puck (as opposed to just touching the puck) in recent years, but this takes the rule to the next level. It further rewards a team for pressuring their opponent, while not letting the offending team off the hook by simply grabbing the puck. Now, they’d have to do something with it. Depending how this rule is implemented in the R&D camp, it could be something the GMs take a strong look at down the road. One tweak might simply require the offending team to clear the zone—not necessarily with possession. Requiring a team to gain possession and skate the puck out of the zone might be asking a little too much. Firing it past the blue line should be enough.

4. Shallow-back nets
This is one of those rules that doesn’t seem like a big deal until you see it implemented on the ice. Last season, this was one of the more surprising suggestions because of the multiple advantages it creates for the offensive team in the attacking zone. Obviously, shallower nets allow for more space behind the net; for players who are always looking for time and space, any little bit helps. But surprisingly, it was the passing from behind the net that struck me as the biggest advantage to spring from the shallow nets. Without as much net obstructing play, there are better/different passing angles for creative passers to exploit from Gretzky’s Office. Back door plays and plays that go against the grain open up like never before.

5. All penalties to be served in their entirety
Talk about opening Pandora’s Box. Imagine a world where every 2-minute minor penalty is treated like a 5-minute major. The opposition can score as many times as possible; only after two minutes will the offending player finally be released from the box. Remember all of those questionable calls in the playoffs with accusations of diving? With so much more on the line, there’s a good chance diving would increase in direct proportion to scoring output. What about when a team takes a 2-minute penalty when they’re already on the penalty kill? Does that mean the team can score on the 2-man advantage as many times as possible? A simple delay of game call, or worse yet, a blown call on a nothing play, could change the entire complexion of any given game. If anything, the officials should be the ones who shoot this rule down.

What rules are you looking forward to seeing this summer? More importantly, which rules would you like to see implemented in the next few years? Let us know in the comments.

Marc-Andre Fleury set for return after getting taken off IR

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The Vegas Golden Knights have their starting goaltender back.

After nearly two months and 25 missed games, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his return to the lineup on Tuesday after being pulled off injured reserve on Sunday.

Fleury hasn’t played since Oct. 13 when Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha collided with the 33-year-old as he drove to the net. Fleury was shaken up on the play but saw it through, picking up his first loss of the season after allowing six goals on 27 shots.

Fleury was solid in the crease in the four games he figured into, going 3-1-0 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.

Since he went down, the Golden Knights have had four other netminders see the crease after injuries ran rampant through their goaltending stable.

Their combined record, despite a clear lacking of NHL experience, has been remarkable:

  • Malcolm Subban – 10 GP, 7-2-0, .924 save percentage
  • Maxime Lagace – 14 GP, 6-6-1, .872 save percentage
  • Oscar Dansk – 4 GP, 3-0-0, .946 save percentage
  • Dylan Ferguson – 1 GP, 0-0-0, .500 save percentage

Remember when Subban was claimed off waivers on the eve of the start of the regular season? Quite the steal.

That adds up to a 16-8-1 record with Fleury out of the lineup, which is incredible given how banged up Vegas got between the pipes.

The Golden Knights are on a four-game heater at the moment, and with Subban playing admirably — winning his past three starts — it remains to be seen if Fleury takes the crease on Tuesday.

If not Tuesday, Fleury is surely a lock to get the start against his former team. The Pittsburgh Penguins come to town on Thursday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jaden Schwartz’s ankle injury derails career-year pace

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Jaden Schwartz was on pace to flirt with a triple-digit point total this season.

‘Was’ is the keyword here because, for the second time in three years, Schwartz will miss a significant chunk of time with an ankle injury.

How long he will be on the shelf this time around is undetermined, but Schwartz won’t be evaluated for six weeks after blocking a shot off his right ankle in a 6-1 rout of the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

The injury bug hasn’t been kind to Schwartz’s ankles. During the 2015-16 season, he was limited to just 33 games after sustaining a broken ankle in practice.

The fresh diagnosis is a frustrating blow for Schwartz and the Blues, who have watched his line with Brayden Schenn and Alexander Steen turn into one of the top trios in the NHL this season.

Through 30 games, the 25-year-old had 14 goals and 35 points, placing him second on the Blues, behind Schenn, and ninth in league-wide scoring, tied with Connor McDavid.

At his current pace, Schwartz, playing roughly 20 minutes a night, would have hit 98 points. And a little lucky bounce or two here and there might have propelled him above the century mark, setting career highs along the way.

For the Blues, dealing with devastating injuries is all-to-familiar this season.

But what’s probably most impressive about how successful the Blues have been this season is how they’ve been able to exceed all reasonable expectations despite dealing with a hefty number of major ailments.

The injury bug has been more akin to a foul beast in the Gateway to the West. From Robby Fabbri gone for the season with a torn ACL and Zach Sanford sidelined for months with a shoulder problem to Jay Bouwmeester missing 20 games to start the year and Steen missing the first six.

Not many predicted the Blues to be where they are in mid-December: second place the Western Conference standings with 42 points, just two back of top spot in the league.

And now the Blues, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, will have to navigate another injury to a key piece of their lineup.

They’ve shown the ability to overcome injury adversity before, but losing a key piece of your top six and a top scorer is never easy.

If anyone has the formula down, however, it’s the Bluenotes.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Another shutout for Bobrovsky; Kings make it eight in a row

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Player Of The Night: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Already with a pair of Vezina Trophies in his trophy case, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looks like he wants to add another one to his collection. Thanks to his 35-save effort on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes Bobrovsky was able to record his league-leading fourth shutout of the season. His save percentage after Saturday’s game sits at .930, a mark that is tied for the top spot in the league (minimum 15 appearances) with Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

Eight in a row for the Kings

It wasn’t easy, and they nearly let it slip away by giving up two goals in the final seven minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime, but the Los Angeles Kings extended their winning streak to eight games with a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Tanner Pearson scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

Vegas Does It Again

Speaking of winning streaks, the Vegas Golden Knights were able to keep pace with the Kings in the Pacific Division by winning their fourth in a row with a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars. They have already put together two five-game winning streaks this season and have a chance to do it again. They are an expansion team. It is early December. They have a shot at three five-game winning streaks in their first season and are likely headed to the playoffs. This is all astonishing.

Highlight Of The Night.

The Colorado Avalanche blew out the Florida Panthers on Saturday night with a 7-3 win. It also produced the highlight of the night when Nathan MacKinnon cruised through the Florida defense and scored this absolute beauty to tie the game, 2-2. The Avalanche would score five more goals after that.

He made that look easy.

The Panthers were happy to help, it seems.

Factoid Of The Night.

If Mike Cammalleri could play all of his games against the Montreal Canadiens this season he would be unstoppable. His goal on Saturday night in Edmonton’s 6-2 win over the Canadiens was just his fourth of the season. Three of them have come against Montreal. In three games against the Canadiens (with two different teams — the Los Angeles Kings and now the Edmonton Oilers) he has five points in those games. He has just six points against everybody else in the league in 22 games.

Panarin Offers Another Helping Hand

With his assist on the lone Blue Jackets goal Artemi Panarin has now assisted on each of the past six Blue Jackets goals. He set up all five of their goals in the Blue Jackets’ 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. All six of those assists over the two games have been the primary assist on every goal. He is the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer with 26 points in the team’s first 30 games. He is eight points ahead of Josh Anderson, the second-leading scorer on the team.

Scores

St. Louis Blues 6, Detroit Red Wings 1

Boston Bruins 3, New York Islanders 1

Edmonton Oilers 6, Montreal Canadiens 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Winnipeg Jets 3

Colorado Avalanche 7, Florida Panthers 3

New York Rangers 5, New Jersey Devils 2

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 3

Columbus Blue Jackets 1, Arizona Coyotes 0

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Dallas Stars 3

San Jose Sharks 5, Ottawa Senators 0

Calgary Flames 4, Vancouver Canucks 2

Los Angeles Kings 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Backes ejected for head-butting; Marchand catches Tavares with late hit

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The NHL’s department of player safety will have a couple of things to look at from the third period of the Boston Bruins’ 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night as the Bruins were assessed a pair of major penalties, including one that was accompanied with a game misconduct.

Let us start with the latter play.

Bruins forward David Backes was ejected with just under nine minutes to play when he was called for head-butting Islanders forward Andrew Ladd during the skirmish seen below.

That is not one that you see get called very often, but it did get called here and it ended up giving Backes an early exit.

That came about 10 minutes after Bruins forward Brad Marchand was given a five-minute major for interference when he hit Islanders captain John Tavares with a high, late hit.

Video here (via Chris Abraham)

Tavares seemed to be a little shaken up initially but remained in the game.

Marchand and the Department of Player Safety are quite familiar with one another and Marchand does have a history of suspensions and fines throughout his career, so it would not be a shock if he ended up getting a phone call this weekend from the league for that hit.

Marchand has become one of the best players in the league in recent seasons, a development that makes his repeated run-ins with the DoPS all the more frustrating.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.