SPORTS

NHLPA approves NHL realignment for next year

03/07/2013 06:07 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT
The National Hockey League has taken one step closer to having a different look next season.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr announced in a press release Thursday the players' union wants to go forward with NHL realignment.

"After discussions with the executive board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season," Fehr said in a statement.

The next step will be approval from the NHL's Board of Governors. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed as much in a release.

The new structure includes four divisions: The Atlantic, Central, Midwest and Pacific, as opposed to the current six-division, two-conference system for the 30 NHL clubs that has been in place since 1998.

Among the most significant changes are the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets moving to the Eastern time zone, and the Winnipeg Jets making the switch to the West.

The Central includes Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto, leaving room for the rekindling of Original Six rivalries.

In the Atlantic, teams include Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

The Midwest will involve Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

Finally, the Pacific entails Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

Fresh playoff format

With the new re-alignment comes a fresh playoff format. The top three teams in each division earn postseason berths. The remaining four spots go to wild cards, the top two records in each conference. That means there's a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.

The new plan also calls for divisional playoffs, not within the conference as in the past. The division winner with the most regular-season points will play the lowest-seeded wild-card team in the first round, with the other division winner playing the other wild-card team. The second and third place teams will square off in each division in the first round.

Meanwhile, the regular-season schedule matrix would see each team play teams in the other conference both home and away.

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