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NHL

NHL players union approves realignment plan

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 6:42 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin watches the puck go past Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday, March 7, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The rivals will stay in the same division in the NHL's realignment plan. (Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — The NHL announced Thursday it will move forward with realignment plans after the NHL Players' Association approved a proposal set to go into effect next season.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the union has “given consent” to the plan.

Fehr signed off on the plan after discussions with the union's executive board and said the realignment issue will be “re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season.”

“The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised plan for realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “Our next step will be to bring the proposed plan for realignment to the NHL board of governors for its consideration.”

The board of governors is expected to approve the plan. A board veto is the only thing preventing realignment from being enacted next season.

Under the proposal, the Penguins would be in a division with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. Specifics remain unknown, but it appears the Penguins would play each of their divisional opponents six times.

The Penguins declined to comment, but some players remain unhappy, said Craig Adams, the Penguins' union representative.

“A lot of people didn't want it,” he said. “Not everyone is happy. Not at all.”

The NHLPA had been displeased with the proposal because 16 teams would play in the Eastern Conference, while the Western Conference would boast 14.

“We needed to come to some resolution,” Adams said. “There needs to be a schedule next year.”

In addition to the Blue Jackets, the Detroit Red Wings also would play in the Eastern Conference next season. The Winnipeg Jets — formerly the Atlanta Thrashers — will leave the Southeast Division for a spot in the Western Conference.

Each conference still will have eight teams in the playoffs, but the setup will be slightly different.

Instead of the current system, under which the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs, the new plan will award spots to the top three teams in each division along with the next two teams with the best records as wild cards.

The Associated Press contributed. Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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