Coach’s challenge, 3-on-3 OT and goalie equipment will be discussed at GM meetings

Associated Press
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At their annual March meeting this week in Boca Raton, Florida, NHL general managers will debate changes to the coach’s challenge system that has gotten some calls right but caused plenty of problems in its first season.

The coach’s challenge for goals on potential goaltender interference situations or offside plays has come under fire for inconclusive results, long video reviews and delay tactics. Ideas to tweak the system include allowing the league situation room to decide the reviews, making an unsuccessful challenge a penalty and even simply adding more cameras for more replay angles.

“I think there’s challenges with the challenge,” New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero said. “I don’t know what needs to change. I’m looking forward to hearing all the different opinions from the GMs and certainly from the league on what the challenges have been.”

Unlike 3-on-3 overtime, which is drawing rave reviews for its entertainment value and reduction in shootouts, the coach’s challenge hasn’t been a flawless addition to games. Through the first 1,029 games, just 55 of 216 coach’s challenges were overturned.

Most are well-intentioned, and those upheld cost a coach his timeout. But the notion that some coaches are challenging goals just to give their teams a longer breather led to the idea of making an unsuccessful one a delay of game penalty.

Shero said he likes that idea in concept but added that the lingering gray area over goaltender interference could make it a problem. Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is more concerned about getting offside plays right by having some more camera angles.

“The hard part for me is that I think a lot of the challenges at least that we’ve been a part of, there’s been an inconclusive type of remedy to it,” Cheveldayoff said. “If a foot’s lifted, a foot’s not lifted and it literally just depends on do you have enough camera angles or not to make that right ruling.”

The NHL is trying to get it right, but many video reviews this season have taken several minutes. Those lengthy delays have been the subject of criticism, but Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland is of the opinion that it’s better to take time than be wrong.

“Which is worse, taking 6 minutes to come to the conclusion or making it in 2 minutes and finding out today that the decision that they made on video review was the wrong one because they didn’t take the time to look at it close enough, there was an angle that maybe the TV hadn’t shown?” Holland said. “You can’t just say we want to have a video review and you got 2 minutes and the guys are whipping through it and then they find out a certain percentage of the decisions that they’re making are wrong decisions.”

That’s why some GMs would like the situation room in Toronto to take over coach’s challenges from the on-ice officials. The goal would be to standardize goalie interference, which is inherently subjective.

One complaint from coaches on offside plays is that goals have been disallowed that came well after a team entered the zone. Holland said he’d be open to discussing changes to that rule.

“An offside that you miss by a fraction of an inch that caused the goal that had nothing really do with being offside, that’s not what the rule’s about,” Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Does it matter? I don’t know if it matters.”

Among the other topics expected to be discussed are inadvertent hits to the head, goaltending equipment and 3-on-3 overtime. Intentional head shots are already penalties and come with further discipline, but as the NHL tries to cut down on concussions it’s possible the rules are expanded to include accidental ones.

With shootouts down and plenty of back-and-forth hockey, 3-on-3 overtime is a smash hit that Cheveldayoff said has “gotten the desired result.” Holland, who long pushed for 3-on-3, is pleased by how it has gone.

“I think it’s incredibly entertaining … and the players are enjoying the 3-on-3 because even if you did go to a shootout, it’s 5 minutes of scoring chances, plays around the net, breakdowns and the players get an opportunity to showcase their skill,” Holland said. “It couldn’t have been any better.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.