NHL preparing for 50-game, intra-conference schedule?

Now that the stupid lockout is over, the NHL can turn its attention to what the upcoming season will look like.

Expanded playoffs? Potentially. The NHL is desperate to both entice apathetic fans to come back to the game for a truncated season and to make up for the revenue shortfall. The playoff expansion works better for the four-division realignment, but four more teams getting playoff gates might be too sexy to pass up.

But how long will the regular season run before those Stanley Cup Playoffs?

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN and others, the target is a 50-game regular season. Please recall the number had been 48 games for some time, with the games getting underway on Jan. 19. With the NHL and NHLPA closing their deal well ahead of this Friday’s “deadline” for the season, the possibility is strong that a 50-game season happens.

How will it break down? McKenzie and Eric Stephens of the OC Register see a format in which teams would have five games against their division rivals and three games against their 10 conference rivals. (Sorry, Atlantic Division, which will devour each other like a soccer rugby team that crashed in the Andes.)

Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press believes that the schedule will be a mix of new dates and dates from the previous schedule.

Again, this stinks in a way, because those highly anticipated matchups between conferences – Parise vs. the Devils, Nash vs. the Blue Jackets, Vancouver vs. Boston among them – will have to wait ‘till next season. Or the Stanley Cup Final. Yes, because the Blue Jackets are making the Cup Final …

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