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Penguins could open in Philadelphia if NHL season starts

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
The Flyers celebrate Claude Giroux's first-period goal in front of the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the first period during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Wells Fargo Center on April 22, 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Sidney Crosby practices with six of his fellow teammates Wednesday January 2, 2013 at the team's practice facility in Southpointe. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Penguins could begin an NHL season where their Stanley Cup playoff run ended.

Though multiple sources said plans are subject to change, the Penguins likely would face the Flyers in Philadelphia for a nationally televised matinee on Jan. 19 if the NHL and its Players' Association agree on a new labor contract.

The sources said a 48-game season would begin Jan. 19, with most of the NHL's 30 clubs playing that day. Games would be played throughout the day as part of a celebration of hockey across North America. Rivalry games would dominate Day 1 of the shortened season to placate the NHL's national television partners in the United States and Canada, the source said.

Consol Energy Center is booked the evening of Jan. 19 for a Duquesne men's basketball game. Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center is booked for Penn State men's hockey in the evening, but the Flyers are tentatively scheduled to face the Calgary Flames at 1 p.m.

A 48-game schedule will preserve most of the previously booked arena dates, but matchups will change because clubs will play only in-conference opponents. Clubs would play seven games against division opponents and a home and road game against each of 10 remaining conference teams, the sources said.

Games are canceled through Jan. 14 because of a labor dispute. Owners have locked out players since Sept. 15.

The league and union resumed face-to-face negotiations Monday and have since traded several proposals. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said a labor contract is required by Jan. 11 for training camps to open the next day and the season to begin Jan. 19.

A 52-game season could have started Jan. 12, but that would have required a new labor contract before this weekend, the sources said.

The NHL will not play fewer than 48 games, Bettman said. A shortened 1995 season was 48 games.

The Penguins-Flyers rivalry dates to their respective NHL debuts in 1967, though it has increased in intensity since Sidney Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh in 2005.

In three playoff series against the Flyers since 2008, the Penguins won twice.

The Flyers raced to a 3-0 series lead before eliminating the favored Penguins in six games from a first-round playoff showdown last season.

Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins' reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP, said that loss was the worst of his then-six-season career. Crosby said that series, which featured the Penguins blowing several multiple goal leads in Games 1 and 2 home losses, remains mystifying.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rrossi@tribweb.com or 412-380-5635.

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