Get ready to see plenty of three-on-three hockey during the NHL pre-season.
Before the league goes to five minutes of three-on-three overtime when it counts, 45 exhibition games will feature the experiment so that every team gets a chance to play it at least three times regardless of the score.
The Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators will get things underway Sunday night in the second game of their split-squad doubleheader. No matter the score, the teams will begin a five-minute three-on-three overtime.
“That was a response to club inquiries and requests over the summer because I would say most coaches don’t spend a lot of practice time practising three-on-three,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday from New York. “So they want to kind of get a sense of how it operates, probably get some familiarity and comfort level with it before the regular season starts and they’re deciding games with it.”
The league and NHL Players’ Association agreed to adopt the policy for the pre-season, Daly said.
In the pre-season, the games designated for three-on-three overtime that aren’t tied won’t have to go to a shootout. For record-keeping purposes, the team winning at the end of regulation will be given the victory.
Any game that is tied will also give teams the opportunity to try three-on-three overtime.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are set to play three-on-three after their exhibition game Sept. 22 at Bell Centre.
The implementation of three-on-three overtime came after the American Hockey League sharply reduced shootouts last season by playing three minutes of four-on-four overtime followed by up to four minutes of three-on-three.
General managers voted to move to some type of three-on-three overtime last spring, leaving it open whether to adopt the AHL seven-minute format or simply five-minutes of three-on-three. Five minutes of three-on-three was eventually approved by the joint competition committee and the board of governors.
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press