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As Phil Housley fumes about goalie interference, GMs discuss it

Down in Boca Raton, Fla., the NHL's general managers hunkered in a resort and spent three hours examining goaltender interference and the coach's challenge. They foresee changes.

Phil Housley will be happy about that.

The Buffalo coach flipped a switch following Monday night's 4-0 loss to Nashville. He talked contently about the Sabres, who outplayed the league's best team at times and trailed just 2-0 with four minutes left. Then the Predators' first goal was brought up.

Center Mike Fisher, standing at the top of the crease, tipped home a point shot midway through the second period. Fisher's skate had gone through the blue paint prior to the goal and appeared to hit the skate of Buffalo netminder Linus Ullmark.

Housley immediately issued a coach's challenge for goaltender interference. The referees and NHL Hockey Operations denied the challenge.

"Their skate went into our goalie in the crease, in the blue paint," said Housley, his voice rising in the KeyBank Center media room. "I would call that 100 out of 100 times. To me, that's goalie interference. His skate hits Linus' skate, which doesn't allow him to get down into the butterfly and make the save.

"So I don't know what you call goalie interference anymore."

With that, one of the NHL's seasonlong debates reached Buffalo. It was a fitting day for it to happen.

The league's GMs are spending three days in Florida for their annual March meetings. Their No. 1 objective is to come up with a plan to clarify or possibly change the goalie interference reviews.

"There should be a change, and there will be," Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters. "It's just making sure it's the right thing."

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Determining the right thing will be the tricky part. The league reportedly showed the GMs video clips of 14 plays that were challenged for goalie interference. There were disagreements over whether the goals should or shouldn't have counted.

"Goaltender interference inherently is a judgment call," Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in Florida. “You’re always going to have that element of judgment. The constant conversation is there to try and make it better. That’s what we spent time on."

The NHL told the assembled media that of the 1,114 games and 6,593 goals scored entering Monday, there were just 170 video reviews for goaltender interference, including those triggered by the Situation Room in the final minute of games or overtime.

Of those 170 reviews, there was internal NHL disagreement or disagreement with referees on just nine scoring plays.

"You were never going to satisfy everybody, and that's not the goal," Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. "The goal is to hopefully make the better call and avoid some of the big mistakes that maybe have been made in the past."

One way the league could change the process is take it out of the hands of the referees and allow the same people in Toronto to rule on the reviews. There would obviously be consistency.

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But Kris King, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, said the consistency is already there. He said the Situation Room would have deviated from the officials on only four of the 170 reviews for goaltender interference.

"It's not really a problem from our side because for the rest of those we're seeing the same thing," King told reporters in Florida. "The referees are looking at the replays, they're taking our direction, asking us for our opinion, but we're also following the rules of how it's written out where they get the final call."

While the review process could change – and maybe not until next season – how the rules are written will not be altered.

"The rule is not going to change," Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee said. "The process is going to be improved in a way that seemed pretty unanimous in the room, how we could do things better. So, we'll discuss it a little bit more here in the next day or so and have a solution."

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