The players are a little confused. The linesmen seem confused at times, too. Icing calls are not the same anymore as the National Hockey League shifts to hybrid icing for the 2013-14 season.
The NHL Players’ Association voted on Monday to approve the hybrid call, the first change to the touch icing rules since 1937. It was tried during the preseason and went into effect for Tuesday’s season openers. The Sabres will use it in regular season play for the first time tonight in Detroit.
Hybrid icing allows the linesman to blow the play dead if he determines the puck will cross the goal line and the defending player has won a race to the end-zone faceoff dots over an attacking player.
If the attacker is leading the race, the play is supposed to continue. Early whistles prevent races to the end boards that can lead to serious injuries, such as the broken heel suffered in April by Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen that will keep him out of all of this season.
“I like it,” Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said of the rule. “You don’t see too many times the other teams beating you down the ice for an icing. With as little as that happens and with some of the injuries I’ve seen in the past, I think it went pretty well in the preseason. There were some calls that probably weren’t right but everybody has to get used to it.”
Goaltender Ryan Miller said an early sticking point seems to be where the puck is shot down the boards, curls behind the net and comes out the other end. In Miller’s eyes, linesmen are struggling to determine which players are actually racing for the puck. Miller added on-ice discussions with linesmen sometimes differed from league video tutorials provided to players.
According to the rule, the linesman has to determine who would have touched the puck first and can either whistle the play down or let it continue.
“I didn’t like how sometimes the race would be on the opposite side of the ice from the puck,” Miller said. “I got kind of annoyed on where the races were being judged. … I felt there was confusion out there still. I think it’s going to be a work in progress.
“From a safety standpoint it makes sense. I’m all for the hybrid icing. I just want to see the rule made a little bit more clear. Between the linesmen and players, we need to be getting the exact same video and explanation. It seemed like we were getting two different explanations.”
The AHL announced Tuesday that it is also going back to hybrid icing.
The league started with it last year but dropped it when the NHL lockout ended in order to maintain consistent application in both leagues.
The NHL’s approval made the AHL decide to put the rule back in, so the Rochester Amerks will use it from the outset of their season. They open Friday night in Blue Cross Arena against defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids.
Rookie center Johan Larsson and enforcer John Scott skated as extra forwards in Tuesday’s practice and are good bets to be the Sabres’ healthy scratches up front tonight.
Winger Marcus Foligno has officially gone on injured reserve with what’s believed to be a shoulder strain and coach Ron Rolston said he’s unlikely to play this weekend, in either the home opener Friday against Ottawa or Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.
Foligno skated in the early portion of Tuesday’s practice in a red (non-contact) jersey and then left the ice. The Sabres need him to be pretty much at 100 percent so he can play his normal physical game without worrying about his injury.
“He’s been going out and trying it and it’s not where it needs to be,” Rolston said.
The Penguins, meanwhile, announced that defenseman and Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang has gone on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and will miss their season opener against New Jersey and Saturday’s visit from the Sabres.
The Sabres have announced they will host a Party in the Plaza on Friday prior to the home opener against Ottawa. The party will take place in Alumni Plaza, located outside of the arena along Perry Street, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. There will be music from The Informers and food and beverages will be available for purchase.