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NHL roundup

Roundup: Players put halt to realignment plan

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (71) battles with the Rangers’ Marc Staal (18) in New York’s win.

The NHL said yesterday that it won’t go forward with its realignment plan and modified playoff format next season after the players’ association refused to agree to the changes.

The changes were approved in December by the NHL’s board of governors, with the league planning to switch from two three-division conferences to six divisions.

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The league said it will maintain its current alignment and playoff format next season.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a plan that an overwhelming majority of our clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including players,’’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

“We believe the union acted unreasonably in violation of the league’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.’’

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr issued a statement last night.

“As realignment affects players’ terms and conditions of employment, the CBA requires the league to obtain the NHLPA’s consent before implementation,’’ Fehr said. “Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the league and extensive dialogue with players, most recently on an executive board conference call on Jan. 1. Two substantial player concerns emerged: whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions.

“In order to evaluate the effect on travel of the proposed new structure, we requested a draft or sample 2012-13 schedule, showing travel per team. We were advised it was not possible for the league to do that. We also suggested reaching an agreement on scheduling conditions to somewhat alleviate player travel concerns . . . but the league did not want to enter into such a dialogue.’’

Last month at the board of governors’ meetings, commissioner Gary Bettman was given authority to realign the league from its current six-division format to four conferences of seven or eight teams. However, the NHLPA said it needed to agree on any plan and wanted more details about how it would affect travel, competitive balance, and revenues.

Rangers 3, Penguins 1 - Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist, Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves, and visiting New York won its fourth straight.

Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2 - Eric Staal had a goal and two assists to lead Carolina past visiting Buffalo.

Avalanche 4, Blackhawks 0 - Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves to earn his second shutout to lead visiting Colorado to its fourth straight win.

Devils 5, Panthers 2 - Ilya Kovalchuk had two third-period goals to lead host New Jersey over Florida.

Ducks 4, Islanders 2 - Ryan Getzlaf scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period, and host Anaheim beat New York to end a three-game skid.

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