NHL referee Steve Kozari was on the ice at City National Arena Saturday morning as the Vegas Golden Knights scrimmaged and everyone was wondering what he was doing there?
Turned out Kozari was there for more than to just work up a sweat. He was there to deliver a message from the NHL hockey operations folks.
The NHL is cracking down on cross checking. After several high profile incidents last year, including one where the New York Islanders’ Scott Mayfield put the wood (carbon?) to Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the league has decided to start enforcing Rule 59, which address cross checking, has been on the books forever, though not often applied by the refs.
In its explanation made public recently, the NHL said: “Cross-checking, like many penalties, is a judgment made by an official and is not black and white. No two plays are exactly the same and many factors, including placement of the stick, elimination through force, and player embellishment are considered when judging cross-checking.”
“Officials may allow players to use the shaft of the stick to guide or push an opponent without assessing a penalty, however if the guiding or pushing is judged to be excessive, an interference penalty may be assessed.”
The Golden Knights will see just how closely Rule 59 is enforced Sunday when they host the San Jose Sharks in their 2021 preseason schedule opener at T-Mobile Arena. Perhaps Kozari, who did not make any such calls during Saturday’s scrimmage, will be on the ice and send a guilty party to the penalty box.
“Maybe I’ll be able to take some of the extra padding out of my shoulder pads,” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault joked.
Defenseman Alec Martinez, who’s more prone to use his body rather than his stick to get in the way of an opponent, wasn’t too concerned.
“I think it’s an emphasis the league wants to make,” he said. “I saw the video and we talked to Steve. He explained what we can expect.
“Honestly, I don’t think it changes much. Last time I checked, you couldn’t violently cross-check someone and get away with it. I’m really not too concerned.”
Martinez will let his coach do the worrying. Peter DeBoer was asked about Rule 59’s stricter enforcement and he hopes the refs won’t be going overboard just to please their bosses or send a message to the teams.
“We’ll have the guys look at the tape,” DeBoer said. “It stems from last year’s playoffs. There was a lot of complaining about the physicality of the net-front battles and that sort of stuff.
“We’re working with our defensemen on the new standard. It’s going to take some getting used to because guys are used to engaging around the net with offensive players. We have some big guys, (Zach) Whitecloud, (Nicolas) Hague, (Brayden) McNabb, guys who do that on a regular basis. So we’re going to have to make some adjustments to that.”
DeBoer would just as soon not see things change.
“I’m kinda old school,” he said. “I think the physical battles of the game are part of it and I don’t like to see that over-legislated, or taken out of the game. But we’ll see. The jury’s out on what that looks like.”
What DeBoer did like was how the three-day camp went on the ice.
“I thought we had a great camp,” he said. We had a good three, four days out of them and I think we got out of it injury-free.”
DeBoer’s plan for the start of the preseason is to play some of the young players on the cusp of making the NHL. That’s means good long looks at Peyton Krebs, Dylan Coghlan, Jack Dugan, Kaedan Korczak, Pavel Dorofeyev, Peter DiLiberatore and some time for Logan Thompson in goal.
“The veterans don’t need a whole lot of time to get ready,” he said. “Having the full compliment of games allows us to take a good look at some of the younger guys and see what they can do at this level.”
Three takeaways from Day 3 of training camp:
1. Pietrangelo’s buzzer-beater: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored as time was expiring in the daily scrimmage to give the White team a 3-3 tie with the Grey. The White squad had squandered a 2-0 lead but came back late, pulling the goalie for a sixth attacker with 1:07 to go.
Pietrangelo has looked like one of the best players in camp. He’s in great shape. He appears comfortable with the system. And he’s appears ready to pick up where he left off in the playoffs where he was one of the Golden Knights’ best players.
2. Fast fourth line: Keegan Kolesar wouldn’t say if he’s a faster player after he worked out in Las Vegas all summer, but his line, which includes Nic Roy and William Carrier, sure seemed to be flying around the ice Saturday.
Kolesar is shooting the puck with more regularity and Roy seems to be finding his linemates with on-the-tape passes as he looks to replace the departed Tomas Nosek as the fourth line’s center.
“I’ve always been hesitant to shoot,” Kolesar said Friday after he had a pair of goals in that day’s scrimmage. “You just try to get better every day.
3. “Fifth line” challenging for time?: DeBoer put together a fifth line of Krebs, Brett Howden and Paul Cotter and they looked like a line that could click.
Cotter scored the White team’s second goal and Krebs made some terrific passes to both Cotter and Howden. Perhaps we’ll see this trio together Sunday night against the Sharks.