DENVER -

The American Hockey League has long been the place to experiment with new directives, just to see how well they work - or don't work - before the NHL takes a look. Some (oversized blue lines) weren't popular. Others (not being able to change players after an icing call) have been promoted.

The new OT rule possibly could be coming soon to an NHL rink near you.

"It's certainly entertaining for fans and a lot of fun to watch," said David Andrews, the president and CEO of the AHL for the last 21 years.

Currently, the NHL uses a four-on-four OT model for 5 minutes. If no one scores, then it goes to a shootout.

But here's how the extra period works on the AHL level: It's 7 minutes long - or until someone scores, of course - with the opening 3 minutes four-on-four. Then, after the next whistle, it switches to three-on-three for the last 4, leading to lots of room for creativity and scoring chances. If that doesn't decide things, it goes to a shootout, a concept that drives many a coach bonkers since it's almost like a skills competition.

That's the thing, though. This new overtime system has cut down significantly on shootouts.

Last year, the AHL had 65 percent of its OT games decided in a shootout, Andrews said. This season, it's shrunk to 25 percent. Even more, of the 99 overtime games so far, 35 of them have been decided in three-on-three action.

"If you put your three best NHL players against each other with all that ice and creativity, man, it would be something to watch," said the Worcester Sharks' Roy Sommer, one of the all-time winningest AHL coaches.

As for when - or even if - this version of overtime arrives at the NHL level, that's hard to predict. In a statement, the NHL's hockey operations branch said the league follows "the American Hockey League and other leagues closely . . . We're always interested in ways to make an already great game better."

Colorado and Toronto had a three-on-three situation in overtime earlier this season after both teams drew penalties. It was riveting as players raced from end-to-end, unable to risk heading to the bench for fear of an odd-man rush going the other way.

"If we did this, there's no way games would go to a shootout," Colorado forward Matt Duchene said. "As much as shootouts are fun to watch, I'm not a big fan of them, because it stinks to finish a game on a non-hockey play.

"But I'd love to see overtime four-on-four and then three-on-three, because it would be amazing."

Binghamton defenseman Chris Wideman can attest to that, having scored two of his 12 goals in overtime this season - one in three-on-three and the other on a four-on-three power play.

"Lots of odd-man rushes, breakaways," said Wideman, an Ottawa farmhand. "From the pure entertainment side, you can't beat it. As far as for the players, it's a lot of fun for us. It gives you a chance to show off a little skill."