The 2015-16 NHL season officially gets underway on Wednesday, and those involved will have a few new rules and regulations to get accustomed to.
The most obvious difference from this year to last is that the five-minute overtime period will be played with three skaters rather than the four that teams have been allowed in recent years.
A team's strength will never fall below three on-ice skaters, so in the event of a team carrying a power play over from regulation time, or being awarded a man-advantage chance, they will add one (or two for a five-on-three) player(s) to their attacking unit. Team strength will be reduced to as close to three players per side as the penalty situation allows after the next whistle.
This season coaches will be given one opportunity per game to challenge scoring plays by launching reviews for two types of infractions: goals scored on offside plays, and goals either allowed or disallowed with a question of goaltender interference on the play.
The coach will make his challenge known to on-ice officials before the next faceoff occurs, and the official responsible for making the call in question will review the play with help from the Video Room in Toronto.
A challenge can only be made if a team has its timeout in hand. That timeout will be lost if the challenge is unsuccessful, and kept if the call is overturned. If the Video Room finds a different reason to disallow the goal (e.g. it was kicked in, hit the goalframe and never crossed the line, etc.) the challenge process will be deemed unnecessary and neither the coach's challenge nor the team's timeout will be lost.
In the final minute of regulation and the entire overtime period (including playoff overtime), all challenges of these two infractions will be initiated by the Video Room.
The challenge process was not tested in pre-season action, so the regular season will serve as a live exercise for working out any kinks in the procedure.
Goals scored on offside plays
Offside plays will only be reviewable if the puck stays in the zone from the time the alleged offside occurs and the puck enters the net, and only if all attacking skaters had not exited the zone to re-establish themselves in a onside position after the offside occurred.
If those conditions are met, the linesman who deemed the zone entry to be legal will communicate his reasoning for his onside call, then personally review the play with the help of those watching along in the Video Room in Toronto. Ultimately, it will be the linesman who either sees inconclusive evidence to overturn the call, or realizes that the onside call was made in error and needs to alter his judgment.
If the play was offside, the goal will be disallowed and the game clock will be reset to the time the illegal zone entry took place. Any penalties taken in the time between the offside and the goal will still be served by the guilty players, however.
Scoring plays with a question of goaltender interference
A challenge can be made for either an allowed goal that looked to involve the goaltender being interfered with, or a goal that was disallowed because of goaltender interference.
In either case the referee who made either the interference or goal call will review the play and reverse his call if he sees conclusive evidence that his initial determination was incorrect.
Puck in protective netting
Though not a challengeable play, the in-arena goal judge and Toronto Video Room can review whether the puck hit the end-zone netting prior to a goal being scored. A call can only be overturned if the puck directly goes off the netting into the net or the player who retrieved the puck scores on his next play with the puck.
If he passes to a teammate who then scores the goal, the review process cannot include a look at the puck into the netting. This could be an exploited loophole if the defending team stops playing thinking the action will be halted because of the puck going out of bounds.
In previous seasons, the home team's centre was allowed to place his stick on the ice last in all faceoff situations. This season, that home-ice advantage will be limited to faceoffs occurring at centre ice.
At the other eight faceoff dots (one to the left and right of each net and one on either side outside each blue line), the defending player (the one closest to and facing away from his own net) will need to place his stick on the ice first, giving a better chance of winning the faceoff to the attacking team.