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Tailing the Komets: Players adjusting to new rules emphasis

Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma says players will have to adjust quickly to the new emphasis on slashing and faceoff rules. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel.com)

As usual when the National Hockey League tweaks its rules, it takes every level of hockey some time to adjust.

During Monday night’s exhibition game, Kalamazoo’s Lane Scheidl was hit with a delay of game penalty after he didn’t line up to the satisfaction of the linesman. It’s a totally new call this season to clean up an old problem.

The NHL is emphasizing more faceoff violations this season (meaning players should be stationary with their stick on the ice when the linesman says “Set! Set!”). The first offending player will be kicked out of the circle like usual, but if the player who replaces him violates the positioning he could receive a two-minute penalty. The league is simply trying to make faceoffs more uniform because, frankly, every forward tries to cheat on them to find an advantage.

This may not be as much of a factor during regular-season games, but it will become tremendously important during the playoffs when puck possession is more critical.

Hockey is also placing more emphasis on slashing calls so be prepared for more calls. Basically, anything that hits a player in the hands or high on a stick is going to be called.

“They want you to skate and move and have to defend by moving your legs, and that makes it a speed game,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I like the new rules changes. I thought they were a little too over the top early on in NHL preseason, but now they have kind of settled down where I can see what they are trying to do. You see the injuries last year and why they implemented it with some of the gross, nasty hand injuries that took guys out. As long as they are consistent, that’s all we can ask.”

It also takes away a tool from the defending players, many of whom were taught by coaches growing up to attack the hands of players carrying the puck. Former Komet Colin Chaulk was tremendous at using his stick to distract opponents with taps on the gloves.

“They are trying to change the game to be more offensive, and they are adding skill, but also taking skill away,” Komets defenseman Jason Binkley said. “You have to be careful or they’ll just go back to big guys with long reaches who just get in the way.”

Many defensemen said they’d continue to play the game with their regular style until forced to change. There were plenty of penalty calls during the NHL preseason games, but ECHL players are wondering how often the calls will be made when there’s only one referee compared to a pair in NHL and AHL games. Every player has been watching the NHL intently to see how the calls are going.

“In the two games I played in the AHL, there were a lot of slashing calls,” said Cody Sol, who went to training camp with Tucson before being sent to Fort Wayne. “I understand why they are doing it. It’s tough here with only one referee during the season, and they just can’t see everything, so it’s a lot different.”

After going with one referee during the regular season, the ECHL uses two referees in the playoffs.

“It’s probably going to be pretty difficult,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “I feel like in the NHL they were trying to set a precedent early, and now guys are used to it. Guys are going to have to learn if they get penalties, but it shouldn’t take too long. In our league, typically it’s been there, so for some guys it’s going to be a hard habit to break. Every team is playing with the same ref, and it’s stuff we can’t control, so we just have to play the game and stay within the rules and not use our sticks.”

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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