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GMs consider tweaking OT rules

More extra time could take bite out of shootouts

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TORONTO -- Changing the structure of overtime in NHL regular-season games might not be imminent, but continued discussions among the league's general managers show there is interest in extending the extra period to cut down on the number of shootouts.

Overtime was one of many of topics discussed at Tuesday's annual general managers meeting after Hockey Hall of Fame induction night, along with fighting, hybrid icing and the playoff format that was introduced for this season. No formal rule changes came about, though the purpose of this get-together is more to set up the next meeting in March.

Forty of the first 262 games this season have gone to a shootout. GMs have been discussing making overtime 10 minutes to cut down on shootouts "to some degree," according to Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings. Holland proposed five minutes of four-on-four and then three minutes of three-on-three, while Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues and others want simply 10 minutes of four-on-four.

"I think there was an appetite in the room from all the managers and also from (commissioner Gary Bettman) to look at a way to extend overtime," Holland said. "And we're talking about possibly do we switch (ends), longer changes and do some things to try to maybe have better ice, whether it's more shovelling or something."

Holland said it's possible overtime gets extended to seven or eight minutes instead of 10, which he considers an improvement he could live with.

Fighting was discussed both in general terms and in regard to goaltenders, after incidents this season involving Montreal tough guy George Parros suffering a concussion after his head hit the ice and Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery skating over the red-line to pummel Washington netminder Braden Holtby.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said there wasn't much of a push to change the punishment for skaters fighting, but he and his colleagues discussed adding more of a punishment for goalies who cross centre to fight like Emery did.

The GMs also got clarification on the playoff format, which could include wild-card teams crossing over because of total points even if four make it from each division in one conference. Under the new alignment and format, the top three teams from each division and two wild cards from each conference qualify.

"Certainly my personal opinion is wherever possible to stay within the division, it creates rivalries, less travel," Holland said. "That's obviously part of the reason why we went to two divisions in each conference was to build rivalries, less travel. Obviously there's a crossover component, we talked about it today, and that's why we're going to continue to talk about it in March."

Director of officiating Stephen Walkom briefed the GMs on hybrid icing, which Bettman said Monday was an ongoing adjustment for players and officials.

Yakupov's agent rips Oilers

TORONTO -- Craig MacTavish isn't taking too kindly to comments made by Nail Yakupov's agent about his client's role with the Edmonton Oilers.

A day after Igor Larionov told ESPN.com that he'd be open to a trade from the Oilers, MacTavish accused the reporter who wrote the story of "manufacturing it" and defended the team's treatment of Yakupov.

"There's nothing changed from our perspective on Yak," MacTavish said after the NHL general managers meeting in Toronto. "The only thing I will say is that adversity in my mind is something that helps spur development. Yak's facing a little bit of adversity, but there aren't too many players of that age that haven't. That's really all I have to say about it."

Larionov's message to the Oilers, via ESPN.com, was to let the 20-year-old Yakupov play. The 2012 No. 1 overall pick was a healthy scratch for two games earlier in the season and is averaging 15:28 of ice time a game.

"I asked Craig, I said, 'If you guys (are) not happy with him or you have no room for him... we're willing to make a move. Any team,"' Larionov told ESPN.com. "That happens and that's part of life. Let's move on."

Coach Dallas Eakins told the Edmonton Journal that Yakupov was not going anywhere, a sentiment MacTavish repeated Tuesday.

Asked if Larionov might have a point about Yakupov getting a chance to play more, MacTavish voiced support for Eakins' decisions.

"I think Yak's been treated very fairly since he's been in our organization," he said. "We like Yak, I've said that many times. It's a much bigger story for you people, and it's becoming a bit of a distraction for us right now because we're having to answer these questions."

Nash close to returning

NEW YORK -- After an hour-long spin on the Madison Square Garden ice, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash is ready to practise with his teammates and could rejoin the lineup soon.

Nash skated for the fourth straight day on Tuesday and remained symptom-free from a concussion sustained Oct. 8 at San Jose.

He still needs work on his conditioning before he can play in a game, but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said before his club hosted the New Jersey Devils that Nash would practice on Wednesday.

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2013 C7

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