Carolina Hurricanes

Francis faceoff proposal endorsed by GMs

The Carolina Hurricanes’ Jay McClement (18) faces off against New Jersey’s Scott Gomez (21) during a game at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Dec. 8. The NHL’s general managers approved a proposal from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis mandating that defensive players on the defensive side of the red line must put their sticks to the ice before the puck is dropped on faceoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ Jay McClement (18) faces off against New Jersey’s Scott Gomez (21) during a game at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Dec. 8. The NHL’s general managers approved a proposal from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis mandating that defensive players on the defensive side of the red line must put their sticks to the ice before the puck is dropped on faceoffs. cseward@newsobserver.com

Looking to add more offense to the game, the NHL’s general managers endorsed a proposed change in faceoffs that could be called the “Ron Francis Rule.”

Francis, the Carolina Hurricanes’ general manager, proposed that on all faceoffs on the defensive side of the red line, the defensive player taking the draw must put his stick to the ice first before the puck is dropped. Under the current rules, the player from the visiting team puts the stick down first on all faceoffs, regardless of the zone.

“We were trying to find a way to help the offense without making a drastic change,” Francis said Wednesday. “It’s just a little thing, but as a former centerman I feel there is a definite advantage going in second on draws.”

The Francis proposal, which must be approved by the NHL players and the league’s competition committee, would not change faceoffs at center ice. The visiting player will continue to put his stick down first.

“I like it. It’s a good idea,” Canes center Eric Staal said. “The advantage of going in second (with the stick) is being able to get the feel of the timing of the faceoff. It can make a difference and create more offensive-zone time and more offensive chances, which is what we want.”

The Canes were fifth in the NHL in faceoffs through Tuesday, winning 52.5 percent of the draws. Center Jay McClement, often used for defensive-zone draws, has won 55.2 percent of his faceoffs.

Francis made the recommendation during the GM meetings this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

“You could see more power plays begin with possession in the offensive zone, which would help the offense,” Francis said. “On icing calls, when the team that ices the puck is tired, the offensive team could have a better chance of winning the draw and keeping the puck. In theory, those things could create more offense.”

The most discussed proposal at the meeting was using three-on-three play during overtime periods. The NHL might adopt the American Hockey League format – a seven-minute overtime with four-on-four play the first three minutes, then three-on-three starting on the next whistle – or propose three-on-three play for a five-minute overtime.

“I think the general managers will be comfortable with either option,” Francis said.

Staal said he liked having three-on-three, saying, “It’s time for something different to change it up. A lot of room, a lot of ice, a lot of skating. Should be interesting.”

The Canes were beaten 2-1 in overtime Tuesday by the Ottawa Senators. Mark Stone’s goal during the final seconds broke up a goaltending duel between Andrew Hammond and the Canes’ Anton Khudobin.

Khudobin likely will start Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens as Cam Ward recovers from flu symptoms. Ward was held out of practice Wednesday as a precaution.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, who injured a leg late in regulation against Ottawa, will not play Thursday. The Canes recalled defenseman Danny Biega from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL on Wednesday, and he will make his NHL debut Thursday.

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