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How NHL realignment will work

Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane blasts shot past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith tie game three each second period as Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane blasts a shot past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith to tie the game at three each in the second period as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Phoenix Coyotes Monday December 5, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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REALIGNMENT

The makeup of the yet-to-be-named four conferences:

• Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, BLACKHAWKS, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg.

• Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado.

• New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina.

• Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Updated: January 7, 2012 8:15AM



Big changes are on the way.

The NHL’s board of governors unanimously passed commissioner Gary Bettman’s plan for conference realignment Monday night, which was inevitable with a team in Winnipeg and not Atlanta. Instead of the current Western and Eastern conferences, there will be four starting next season.

Two conferences feature eight teams and the two others have seven. The Hawks will be in a conference with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, ­Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.

The top four teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, which then bring back divisional matchups. The four respective conference champions would meet in the third round of the playoffs, with the winners playing for the Stanley Cup.

The Red Wings, one of the two Eastern time-zone teams in the West, had pushed for a move to the Eastern Conference in the old alignment. The Hawks and Wings will maintain their rivalry. Teams in an eight-team conference, such as the Hawks, will play one another five or six times a season.

“We certainly like that rivalry, and we wouldn’t want to lose that in a perfect world,” general manager Stan Bowman said recently.

Under the new format, every team will play every team outside its conference twice a year.

Take it Backes

Daniel Carcillo took exception to the play of St. Louis Blues forward David Backes, who wrestled with center Jonathan Toews on Saturday.

“You look at the guys he’s fought in this league,” Carcillo said Monday. “He’s a big guy and he’s tough, but he hasn’t really answered the bell with any tough guys. He goes after guys like [Corey] Perry and tries to fight Jonathan Toews. You just can’t let that happen.”

Carcillo played with Toews and Patrick Kane for the first time against the scrappy Blues, ­drawing positive reviews. But he was switched with Viktor Stalberg ­halfway through the game Monday against the Phoenix ­Coyotes.

Ray of sunshine

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t rule out the possibility of backup Ray Emery getting more starts to take the load off Corey Crawford after Emery’s solid outing against the Blues. Emery replaced Crawford on Monday after Crawford allowed three goals on 16 shots.



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