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Blackhawks begin adjustment to new overtime format

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – With their skilled players, speed, and emphasis on controlling the puck, the Blackhawks figure to be one of the teams best-equipped to take advantage of the new three-on-three overtime.

They still have to get used to it.

“It’s something you never really play anymore so maybe gives us a little bit of an idea what to look at and we can look to do as a team,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But I think getting the players a little familiar with it is something that you can hopefully (have them) take advantage of, play to your strengths.”

As they Hawks get ready for the upcoming season, adjusting to the new overtime is on their list of chores. On Friday, they ended both scrimmages with 10 minutes of three-on-three play on Notre Dame’s wider rink while they figure out which players will fit where, how many forwards to use, when to change, when to attack and when to sit back.

It’s a balance, and something they’re working to calculate.

“It’s really tough to be in the right position,” Jonathan Toews said. “You’ve got to try and take your chances offensively when you get them but you’ve got to make it count because you could be in trouble going back the other way.”

The league changed its overtime rules over the offseason in hopes of avoiding shootouts, a method of breaking ties that purists loathe because some don’t see it as an appropriate way to decide a grueling hockey game.

There will be open ice, odd-man rushes and maybe some track-meet hockey. But that doesn’t mean players will allow goals and shrug them off because of the format, or simply concede there will be more scoring.

“Nobody really likes to get scored on and we’ll see,” Duncan Keith said. “I thought it was good the way it was with four-on-four but obviously they wanted to change it, so I think we’ll adjust and we’ll see how it goes out. I think it’s going to be exciting nonetheless. It’s going to be a change. I think you try to embrace that and do the best you can.”

It’s not surprising that Keith would say that. Though he’s known for his ability to move the puck and jumpstart the attack, he’s still a defenseman with a defenseman’s brain.

Forwards probably see it a bit differently. Marian Hossa has an idea of how the new extra periods will go.

“I think there’s a good opportunity for more goals (in OT),” Hossa said. “I think that’s what the league wants and it seems like there’s going to be more goals, because you get more chances.”

That will mean paying attention to little things and maybe some strategy that isn’t usually seen in an NHL game.

“The change is going to be everything. Having the puck is everything,” Quenneville said. “So I think it’s almost like keep-away … you might even think about throwing it back to your goalie. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of strategies that as you go through camps and you get to see other teams and talk to some people that exposed to it, I think they’ll be familiar with it a little quicker.”

To help teams adjust,there will also be 45 preseason games with three-on-three overtime even if the score isn’t tied after 60 minutes.