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NHL labor talks could last through weekend

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 3:26 p.m.

The NHL on Thursday canceled the remainder of its preseason schedule, but a window of hope was opened.

Sources confirmed to the Tribune-Review that Friday's negotiations between the NHL and Players' Association could carry into Sunday, as both sides indicated they would like to make a sincere effort at ending the lockout triggered Sept. 15.

The head figures in this dispute — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr — have not met since Sept. 12. They will meet Friday in New York.

Craig Adams, the Penguins' player representative, will be in New York for the discussions and is hopeful progress can be made. “We need to get back to the table and start talking again,” Adams said after an informal workout at Southpointe. “It can't hurt to be in the same room exchanging ideas.”

Fehr and Bettman will put the core economic issues — how league revenue is divided remains the biggest sticking point — on the back burner to focus on compromising on secondary issues.

Realignment became an issue when the NHLPA erupted in anger in December when owners approved a major realignment. In the plan, the Penguins would have found themselves in a powerhouse division with the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.

Realignment could be a topic this weekend. Also to be discussed are player safety, discipline and travel issues.

“There will be a host of details that go along with life in the NHL that we talk about,” Adams said.

Adams hopes that, if secondary issues are ironed out, a path will have been made to negotiate the financial issues.

Adams doesn't know when he will return to Pittsburgh. He will be in New York starting Friday and could return that night if things don't go well. Or he could be there the entire weekend.

It's the first time in two weeks the sides will meet.

“It's good to get together,” Adams said. “That's all we can hope for at this point.”

That the NHL canceled the preseason was hardly surprising, given September preseason games already had been called off.

The beginning of the season, Oct. 11, now is in jeopardy. The Penguins' first game is scheduled for Oct. 12 at home against the Islanders.

If the season is to begin on time, progress must be made this weekend.

“When you're not talking, nothing can get done,” Adams said. “Who knows what's going to happen this weekend? But let's hope something good happens, that progress is made.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1975.

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