DENVER – The NHL made sure to do 3-on-3 overtime trial runs for every team during the preseason. But because the technology wasn’t installed in every arena yet and so many games weren’t on television, Thursday night’s opener at Colorado was going to be the first chance for Wild coach Mike Yeo and Avalanche coach Patrick Roy to take advantage of the new coach’s challenge.
Before Thursday, Yeo didn’t even know the procedure of how to issue one.
“Maybe I’ll throw my tie on the ice,” Yeo joked Wednesday.
There are three scenarios in which a coach can challenge a play: if a goal is scored and the defending team feels there was goalie interference, or an offsides; and if a goal was waved off for goalie interference and the attacking team feels its player was pushed or there was no contact at all.
Wednesday night, Toronto coach Mike Babcock won the first challenge ever. Jeff Petry’s goal was overturned by referee Dan O’Rourke when he examined the replay and felt Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec interfered with Jonathan Bernier.
“We’ve tried to do everything we can to have a plan in place and make sure we’re prepared for it,” Yeo said. “Obviously, we don’t have the technology that some other sports might have, and to be perfectly honest, we don’t have the time available to make sure that you’re getting it right every time.
“I know for myself as a coach, it’s pretty hard in the game to concentrate on whether a play was offside or something. You’ve got a bunch of other guys to watch and a bunch of other plays to watch. So certainly we’ll be doing it as a staff. We’ll be relying on people to try to pick up what they can as quickly as they can and I think hanging onto your timeout will be important as well.”
That’s the kicker. You can only issue a challenge if you possess your timeout. That means burning a timeout early in the game to, for example, rest defensive players after an icing may go extinct.
“You would sure hate to not have the opportunity to use it later in the game,” Yeo said.
If a challenge results in a call being overturned, that team will retain its timeout. If a call is upheld, the timeout is forfeited. In the final minute of the third period and any point in overtime, the NHL will initiate the review of any scenario that would be subject to a coach’s challenge.
Niklas Backstrom, the Wild’s third goalie and all-time winningest goalie, began the season as a healthy scratch.
Yeo talked with Backstrom, who had a quality training camp, and basically told him there’s no plan going forward. Darcy Kuemper backed up Thursday and will again in Saturday’s home opener, but after that, Yeo doesn’t know.
“There’s a third guy that can’t just be left off to the side,” Yeo said. “We have to make sure we’re keeping everybody sharp and involved. … We don’t have a long-term plan right now.”
• Right wing Justin Fontaine, who missed the first two games of last season because of a glute injury, likely will miss at least the first two this season with an oblique injury. “He’s coming along,” Yeo said. “He’s missed a lot of camp and his conditioning is not where it needs to be. We’ll get him there quickly.”
• Recently acquired winger Chris Porter made his Wild debut on a line with Erik Haula and Ryan Carter.