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Even as teams get more defensive, 3-on-3 OT remains effective

DENVER — The NHL’s switch to a 3-on-3 overtime format this season was designed to limit the amount of games decided by a shootout — essentially favoring the lesser of two gimmicks. And it’s worked. Entering Tuesday’s action, 171 games were tied after regulation, and 109 of them (63.7 percent) ended in overtime. Last season, with the 4-on-4 overtime format, only 84 of 186 such games (45.2 percent) ended in overtime.

But the 3-on-3 overtimes are becoming less frantic and, yes, a little less exciting as the season wears on. The wild end-to-end rushes, one scoring chance followed immediately by another at the other end of the rink, are becoming less common. If there’s one thing the NHL has proven over the years, it’s that coaches always find a way to squelch scoring.

“Coaches [and] players,” Joel Quenneville said. “[Players are] keeping the puck a little bit more and being patient with it and without it, getting below the puck and keeping themselves in the play. That was a good sign of it [at the All-Star game] that they can play [20] minutes with basically one goal. Pretty amazing with the best players in the world.”

Tall cup of coffee

With Michal Rozsival day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the Hawks recalled 6-8 defenseman Viktor Svedberg on Tuesday, and put him right to work in Tuesday’s game. Svedberg played 15 games with the Hawks at the start of the season before being sent back to Rockford.

“It’s exciting to come back,” he said. “You work hard down there to be able to get back.”

It might be short-lived, however. Quenneville said he doesn’t expect to carry eight defensemen for long.

Still a challenge

The Hawks were without Jonathan Toews for Tuesday’s game, as he served his one-game suspension for skipping the All-Star game with an illness. Colorado coach Patrick Roy said that the Hawks pose a great challenge, with or without their captain.

“Doesn’t change anything for us,” Roy said. “It’s a very good hockey club.”

Added Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, who was taken first overall in the 2006 draft in which Toews went third: “They’re obviously the gold standard of the league, the best team year in, year out usually. They have just great consistency to their game. They’re always right near the top every year, and its obviously a good test, a good challenge.”

No Varlamov

Avalanche goaltender and longtime Hawks nemesis Semyon Varlamov did not start Tuesday, as he continues to deal with the domestic violence civil suit filed against him by his former girlfriend. Varlamov last played on Jan. 23.

“Not much new to add,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “We’re behind hi, and we’ll see today how it goes.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus