The NHL appears headed toward a 48-game season for the second time in two decades.
‘‘I think 48 is most likely at this point, unless the players can expedite their ratification process,’’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail Monday to the Associated Press.
The NHL shortened its 82-game slate to 48 games during the 1994-95 season after a 103-day lockout. A 301-day lockout in 2004-05 made the NHL the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season.
When the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement was agreed to Sunday morning — after 16 hours of negotiations — there was some talk of having a 50-game season start later this month.
The NHL and the players’ association are working on a memorandum of understanding, which could be completed soon then voted on by team owners and players. The league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19, the date the season is expected to start.
Some players — including Capitals star Alex Ovechkin — went overseas during the lockout. Ovechkin, who played for his hometown Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, was welcomed back to Washington Monday. The Capitals posted a picture of him on their Twitter account arriving at a local airport.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who remained stateside, worked out at a suburban Pittsburgh ice rink Monday with nearly a dozen teammates. It was an energetic 90-minute session, though it didn’t include reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin, who is expected to return to the United States soon after playing in the KHL.
‘‘We know there’s a lot of frustration, we were frustrated, everyone was,’’ Crosby said. “It was a difficult situation. It was ugly for everyone and we’re happy to put it behind us.’’
Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux offered an apology on the team’s website Monday, saying ‘‘there is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months,’’ but adding the team will do ‘‘everything’’ it can to rebuild trust.
Time to go wild
The Wild might have the happiest fan base in the league now that the team can show off its offseason haul. The two big free agent signings, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, pulled on their new sweaters for the first time during an informal practice at Xcel Energy Center with 16 teammates.
Parise and Suter signed matching 13-year, $98 million deals in July, only to have to sit on the sideline during the lockout. That changed Monday.
‘‘It was really exciting,’’ Parise said. ‘‘I think just coming into the locker room with everybody there and being able to put on a team jersey, it was really fun. We were all excited.”
Both stars said the league and the players need to apologize to fans for putting them through another labor dispute.
‘‘It’s an unfortunate thing,” Parise said. “Unfortunately there is a business side to sports.”