As the Wild begins its exhibition schedule with five games in seven days Monday night against Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres, fans at Xcel Energy Center will get their first look at 3-on-3 overtime.
No matter the score after three periods, the Wild and Sabres will give the new overtime format a try.
“I’ve been a supporter of anything that’s going to avoid the shootout,” said Zach Parise, whose 39 career shootout goals rank second in the NHL. “I just don’t like the way it ends a game. Trust me, I’ve been on teams that made the playoffs because of shootouts, but I just think you’re playing the whole game as a team, why end it in an individual shootout?”
The league is trying to significantly decrease the number of shootouts, and 3-on-3 should accomplish that feat. In glimpses the first three days of Wild training camp, there have been plenty of goals and end-to-end action.
It’ll be interesting to see how teams strategize. Some may use three forwards, some two forwards and a defenseman. Heck, the way the Wild’s defensemen skate, coach Mike Yeo may even go one forward and two defensemen sometimes.
Yeo said puck possession, shot selection and line changes will be critical.
“You can’t get caught tired out there,” said Yeo, adding he’d like his players to utilize the goaltender on line changes to retain possession rather than the normal dump and change.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk said 3-on-3 will lead to several high-quality scoring chances.
“You can go through five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime and not have a scoring chance either way,” Dubnyk said. “It’ll be exciting, but statistics-wise it’s not going to be friendly for us [goalies]. I was really hoping they would put in a separate statistic like a shootout, but nobody seems too concerned what we bring up when there are only 60 of us.
“But it’ll be fun. It’s like bringing the shootout in. It’s an exciting thing for the fans and hopefully it’s something that adds to the game. It’s an extra challenge.”
In Monday’s preseason game, Yeo will go with his top two lines of Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter and three of his top four defensemen — Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Brodin will be paired with Christian Folin.
“It’s fun to get it started,” Koivu said.
The plan is for Darcy Kuemper to start in goal and play the entire game with Niklas Backstrom backing up. Backstrom is slated to play the entire game Tuesday in Winnipeg. Dubnyk will play three of the final preseason games, Yeo said.
Ruslan Fedotenko will skate with Tyler Graovac and Zack Mitchell; and Matt Carey, an invitee on a contract with Iowa, will skate with Brady Brassart and Kurtis Gabriel. Mike Reilly will debut on the blue line and be paired with Nate Prosser or Tyson Strachan.
‘Work in progress’
Yeo said the Thomas Vanek-Charlie Coyle-Justin Fontaine line is a “work in progress.” They’ll be the top line Tuesday in Winnipeg and Yeo hopes to start seeing chemistry.
“That’s part of the process, finding your timing and game legs and game battle level and execution level, and sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not,” Yeo said.
In Sunday’s scrimmage, Erik Haula, whom Yeo continues to praise, scored two goals and Koivu and Christoph Bertschy one each in a 4-2 White victory. Vanek and Coyle scored in 3-on-3 for Green.