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NHL Players Adjusting to New Rules

October 02, 2005|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Martin Brodeur was at the opposite end of the ice when New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist went to the back of the net to play the puck.

It's a move Brodeur has made thousands of times in his brilliant career. It's also a move that is now illegal in the new NHL.

Lundqvist found out the hard way when the whistle blew during this week's preseason game and he was called for delay of game.

Brodeur and others such as Dallas' Marty Turco had become so adept at intercepting dump-in passes and getting pucks out of the defensive zone that the NHL targeted goalies in a crusade to increase offense.

Lundqvist strayed outside the trapezoidal area behind the net to get a puck that he is now forbidden to play.

That is a facet of the game Brodeur mastered as he emerged as the league's best goalie. Not only could he stop the puck, but he acted as a third defenseman on a team that rode stingy defense to three championships in the previous 10 seasons.

First the league mandated the reduction of the size of goaltending equipment, then took aim at the players themselves. If you can't beat them, limit what they can do.

"I'm not really troubled about it," said Brodeur, the Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie the past two seasons. "It's a skill that I worked all my life ... and it's been taken away. So definitely that's kind of tough to take.

"But on the other hand, we're going to have to adjust, and the better goalies will be able to make that adjustment and make it work for themselves."

Goalies will be most affected by the significant changes to the rule book as the NHL returns following a lost year to the lockout with every intention of picking up the pace of the game and generating more excitement.

If the shrinking equipment and the small area behind the goal line where netminders now can play the puck weren't bad enough, now goalies also have to worry about flying forwards that in theory will have a lot more room to skate.

Again the NHL vows to rid the game of interference and obstruction caused by needless hooking and holding. The league says there will be a zero-tolerance policy, and is committed to the premise that skill players will be able to show off their talents.

"I think if it's not going to be this year, it's never going to happen," said new Ottawa forward Dany Heatley. "There's a lot of talk. I think it's now or never for everybody. We want to get the game going, get the game growing, and I think this is a big part of it."

More space and the elimination of the center red line to allow for what were outlawed two-line passes should open things up.

"The cliche, obstruction, is no longer anywhere in the rule book," said Stephen Walkom, the NHL's new director of officiating. "We're just focusing on what needs to be improved in the game to create more offense and more offensive opportunities."

But the exhibition season has been filled with penalty-laden games. There were 37 penalties called in a recent game between Montreal and Atlanta, and another 26 infractions whistled when Ottawa played Toronto.

So much for those shortened games the NHL was so proud of before the lockout when the hurry-up faceoffs became a welcome staple.

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