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NHL approves realignment

March 15, 2013|Helene Elliott
  • The new NHL alignment will put the Ottawa Senators in the same division as the Tampa Bay Lightning. No word if that's why Ottawa winger Chris Neil (25) and Tampa Bay winger B.J. Crombeen are fighting.
The new NHL alignment will put the Ottawa Senators in the same division as… (Chris OMeara / Associated…)

The NHL's board of governors on Thursday approved realignment and a division-based playoff format for next season, a decision that was expected but was acknowledged by Commissioner Gary Bettman as not having been unanimous.

Under the new plan, which will be in effect for at least three seasons, the playoffs for the first time will include wild-card qualifiers. The league will operate under a two-conference, four-division setup in which the East will have 16 teams and the West will have 14. The Kings and Ducks will be grouped with Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

Another key feature matches every team against every other team at least twice per season, which hasn't been the case recently and caused long gaps between interconference visits of star players and popular teams. The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will shift from the West to the East and the Winnipeg Jets, stuck in the East after moving from Atlanta, will go to the West.

"We know that this realignment was extraordinarily important to a number of our clubs, particularly those that were playing so many of their games out of their time zones," Bettman said during a conference call. "This was intended to be a fan-friendly realignment and so fans will not have so many away games at times that made it more difficult to follow their favorite team."

The top three finishers in each division will advance to the playoffs. Two wild-card spots in each conference will go to the next two highest-placed finishers in the conference, regardless of division.

The four divisions were designated as A, B, C and D but will soon get geographically themed names, Bettman said.

Ken Holland, Detroit's executive vice president and general manager, said his club is excited "to renew rivalries with Boston, Toronto and Montreal that go back to the beginning of this league."

The oddest division has Florida and Tampa Bay with Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Bettman said it will feature "snowbird battles," referring to the large number of Canadians who vacation in Florida each winter.

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helene.elliott@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The new NHL

New divisions for the NHL:

*--* WESTERN CONFERENCE Division A Division B DUCKS Chicago KINGS Colorado Calgary Dallas Edmonton Minnesota Phoenix Nashville San Jose St. Louis Vancouver Winnipeg EASTERN CONFERENCE Division C Division D Boston Carolina Buffalo Columbus Detroit New Jersey Florida N.Y. Islanders Montreal N.Y. Rangers Ottawa Philadelphia Tampa Bay Pittsburgh Toronto Washington *--*

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