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League Map Takes Shape

The NHL map is finally in order with Detroit and Columbus heading east, and Winnipeg moving west.

“We’re thrilled, absolutely thrilled,” Blue Jackets executive John Davidson said on a telephone conference call yesterday, shortly after the realignment plan was approved in a vote by the league’s board of governors. “We tend to use the (term) common sense around here. This seems to make a lot of common sense.”

The new format goes into effect next season, and will feature two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference, including the Red Wings and Blue Jackets. The Jets will now be part of a Western Conference that’s made up of two seven-team divisions.

It’s a plan that Commissioner Gary Bettman called “fan-friendly,” because it aligns teams by divisions that are mostly in the same time zones. And Bettman noted it will re-establish numerous rivalries by geography and tradition.

Detroit returns to the East in a yet-to-be named division that will feature three other Original Six franchises, Toronto, Boston and Montreal. And Winnipeg is now part of a central-based division after having spent the past two years playing in the Southeast.

The new format also creates changes in determining the 16-team playoff field. The top three teams in each division will qualify for the postseason. The next two teams with the best records in each conference will then earn wild-card berths.

That will make it more difficult for teams to qualify in the East, because it will have two more clubs than the West competing for eight berths.

The NHL Players Association had already signed off on the realignment format, which will be in place for at least three seasons.

Last Night’s Games

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2

Raleigh, n.c. — Mike Ribeiro scored with 2:16 remaining, and Washington rallied for a win over Carolina.

Alex Ovechkin and Joey Crabb also scored for the Capitals, who had lost three in a row and entered the night 10 points behind the Hurricanes in the Southeast Division.

Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 1

Toronto — Pascal Dupuis scored two of Pittsburgh’s three goals in the third period, and the Penguins stormed back to beat Toronto and win their seventh game in a row.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for Pittsburgh (20-8), which defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 in a shootout in Toronto five days earlier. Craig Adams sealed this win by scoring into an empty net with 10 seconds left.

Islanders 2, Lightning 0

Tampa, Fla. — Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves for second shutout this season and 54th overall in the NHL, John Tavares scored his 17th goal, and New York beat Tampa Bay.

Blackhawks 2
Blue Jackets 1 (so)

Columbus, Ohio — Patrick Kane set up Johnny Oduya’s goal late in the second period and then got the decisive score in the shootout, leading Chicago over Columbus.

Corey Crawford stopped 29 shots to help the Blackhawks end a two-game losing streak after they set an NHL record by getting at least a point in each of their first 24 games.

Jack Johnson scored the tying goal for Columbus 52 seconds after Oduya put Chicago ahead, and Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 39 saves for the Blue Jackets, who set a franchise record by picking up a point in their ninth game in a row.