National Hockey League players approve format for return; Panthers would qualify for playoffs

Paola Ditto
Mag 24, 2020

The next step would have the Return To Play committee sort out a host of other issues, ranging from health and safety protocols to determining where games will be played, with the league preparing to group teams in a select number of hub cities.

The National Hockey League's union brass are expected to give the green light to a 24-team playoff format that would crown the Stanley Cup champion, reported on Friday night.

"Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format still would be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play". They'll play warmup games within their division while the other 16 teams play five-game series to get the playoffs down to their usual 16 teams.

The NHL playoffs usually involve eight teams from each conference, with the victor having to navigate four best-of-seven series following a full schedule.

The seven teams outside the playoffs would not return to play.

With 71 points in 71 games (.500), the Canadiens edge out Buffalo, which had 68 points in 69 games (.493) and would extend the league's longest active playoff drought to a ninth consecutive season.

The byes would go to St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the Western Conference, and Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the Eastern. A two-hub system would have 12 teams at each city, while a four-hub plan would have six squads at each site.

The league, which was forced to pause its season March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the union have been working together on the NHL/NHLPA's Return To Play Committee.

There is no timetable attached to a contemplated 2019-20 restart, though the consensus is that training camps likely wouldn't open until late June or early July.

In the West, the best-of-five matchups would include Edmonton versus Chicago, Nashville versus Arizona, Vancouver versus Minnesota, and Calgary versus Winnipeg. No. 9 Columbus, No. 5 Pittsburgh vs.

Under this scenario, the 11th-seed Rangers would meet sixth-seed Carolina while the seventh-seed Islanders would face 10th-seeded Florida in the play-in round.

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