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Adjustment could take effect for 2008-09 season

9/19/2007 - NHL

CHICAGO -- NHL teams could be back to playing every other
club in the league by next season.

The board of governors from the 30 teams met Tuesday and moved
closer to ditching the unbalanced schedule put in place after the
lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.

Although a vote won't take place before the group meets again in
November, there was a clear indication Tuesday that the often
criticized schedule would soon be scrapped.

"We had a preliminary discussion about the schedule, and I
think it's clear that there will be a change," NHL commissioner
Gary Bettman said after the four-hour meeting. "That's something
that we will work toward effectuating at the [next] meeting."

The current schedule, in effect for the upcoming season that
begins next weekend, consists of eight games against each
divisional opponent and only 10 total against non-conference
opponents. Teams play one out-of-conference division at home and
another on the road -- leaving five teams completely off the
schedule.

Bettman declined to give specific details of how the schedule
would be changed, but the discussion in the meeting focused on
reducing the number of divisional games to allow each team to play
the other 29 clubs at least once.

A two-thirds majority is needed to change the schedule, a move
that would be effective in the 2008-09 season. The board of
governors will meet again at the end of November in Pebble Beach,
Calif. An informal poll during the meeting left the group confident
that change was coming.

"I think there is sentiment for that: to go from eight to seven
or eight to six," Anaheim general manger Brian Burke said. "But
keep the conference games the way they are, and you can get every
other team in your building every other year."

Before the lockout, every team played all the others.

"We think everybody should play everybody at least once,"
Ottawa general manager Roy Malakar said. "Whether that's home and
away, I'd like to see more evidence that that's the direction the
majority wants to go in. But we're willing to change."

Toronto president and CEO Richard Peddie said, "it looks like
change."

Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss and Montreal Canadiens
president Pierre Boivin said a change in the schedule was likely.

"I don't know what the change will be, but I think it's safe to
say that we will be looking at a vote on the change at the [next]
meeting," Boivin said. "It's a difficult topic. It's difficult to
reach a consensus, that's for sure."

Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell voted against a change to the
schedule at the last meeting, during the All-Star break last
January. On Tuesday, Waddell said he would vote for change now that
the three-year cycle of the collective bargaining agreement is
ending.

Also discussed Tuesday was possible league expansion and the
proposed sales of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators.
Bettman said expansion talks were premature.

The team sales are not ready to be voted on, Bettman added, but
could be by the time the board meets again.