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The NHL will abandon the rest of the regular season and go straight into the playoffs with 24 teams instead of 16 - if, and not when, it is able to resume play.
The league is still considering 10 cities, including St. Paul, to be hubs for the playoffs. On Feb. 22, the Russian became the eighth National Hockey League player to score 700 career goals, and he did it in the second-fewest games (1,144). The Panthers and the other 11 East teams will all play at one site, while the 12 playoff teams from the Western Conference will play at a separate site. Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver are also under consideration. Germany's top soccer league Bundesliga resumed play earlier this month, and last Saturday, Spain's La Liga received clearance from Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez to resume its season in early June.
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The top four teams in each conference, as decided by winning percentages when the season was suspended March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive a bye into the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The matchups are based on points percentage in conference standings through games played until March 12.
The league remains in phase one of its plan, which called for teams and players to self-isolate whenever possible and adhere to all local public health guidance. They include a maximum of six players on the ice at a time, no contact and no coaches for voluntary workouts. That came a day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced teams in New York could open their facilities for training camps. Phase 3 of the plan will be the opening of formal training camps.
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There are a lot of moving parts and numerous decisions still to be made: Starting dates, hub cities, lengths of playoff series among them.
Whether the 24 teams involved get to use it depends on how the next steps unfold. But the League unveiled its plan on Tuesday, and part of that will have the seventh-seeded Canucks playing the 10th-seeded Wild in a best-of-5 series, with the victor going to the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While reports of other sports leagues considering return-to-play plans have circulated, no other major league in North America has formally announced its intentions like the NHL.
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