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The NHL announced its plan to return to play Tuesday. Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: When will the games start and how will the playoffs work?

Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined a four-phase plan that eliminates the remainder of the regular season and heads directly into a playoff format.

The league will return in early June, with the expectation that teams will be permitted to return to home facilities for small-group, voluntary, and on- and off-ice training.

Formal training camps will begin after clearance and guidance from medical and civil authorities, not earlier than the first half of July.


To be determined: Two hub cities will host the new postseason.

The playoffs: 24 teams qualify, 12 in each conference.

Round robin: Top four teams in each conference play each other once to determine 1-4 seedings. This means the Bruins, leading the NHL in points by a quite a bit, could finish fourth.

Qualifying round: Teams seeded 5 through 12 (based on points percentage) play best-of-fives series to advance to the next round.

The eight remaining teams in each conference play a bracket tournament. Format to be determined.

Conference finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-seven series.

City 1 — Round robin for top seeding

1. Boston Bruins

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

3. Washington Capitals

4. Philadelphia Flyers

City 1 — Qualifying round

5. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12. Montreal Canadiens

6. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11. New York Rangers

7. New York Islanders vs. 10. Florida Panthers

8. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9. Columbus Blue Jackets

City 2 — Round robin for seeding

1. St. Louis Blues

2. Colorado Avalanche

3. Vegas Golden Knights

4. Dallas Stars

City 2 — Qualifying round

5. Edmonton Oilers vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks


6. Nashville Predators vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes

7. Vancouver Canucks vs. 10. Minnesota Wild

8. Calgary Flames vs. 9. Winnipeg Jets

Jim Hoban can be reached at james.hoban@globe.com.