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NHL cancels rest of preseason schedule

A nearly empty hockey stick rack Buffalo Sabres locker room is shown First NiagarCenter home Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team

A nearly empty hockey stick rack in the Buffalo Sabres locker room is shown at the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team, in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. The NHL and its union are to return to the bargaining table Friday, the first negotiations since the lockout began Sept. 15. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

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A day before the first formal meetings between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL in weeks, the league cancelled what remained of its preseason schedule on Thursday.

“The cancellation of the preseason schedule was necessary because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL,” a league statement said.

The Blackhawks had two preseason games remaining — Oct. 5 at Pittsburgh and Oct. 6 against the Flyers — after the NHL’s first round of cancellations eliminated games through Sept. 30.

The NHL regular season is scheduled to open on Oct. 11. The Hawks’ season-opener is Oct. 13 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Friday, the union and the league will hold their first formal negotiations since before the work stoppage began on Sept. 15. The two sides, though, won’t address revenue-sharing — the most contentious factor so far in negotiations – but will focus on other issues such as scheduling, arbitration rights, contract lengths and discipline.

“The fact that they’re meeting Friday is a good sign,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said.

It’s possible if things go well Friday, more meetings will be held on Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re hoping these little things can move into bigger things, and maybe [both sides will] communicate a little more,” center Dave Bolland added. “Hopefully, you hear good things.”

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