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Winnipeg's Andrew Lad battles New York Rangers' Marc Staal for the puck.
Winnipeg's Andrew Lad battles New York Rangers' Marc Staal for the puck.

NHL set for new structure as league plans wildcards and realignment

The revamp plans would see the league set-up changed along geographic lines and could be in place for the start of next season.

The National Hockey League has revealed plans for a proposed realignment of its set-up based on geographic proximity, which would also introduce wild card entrants to a new-look playoff format.

The proposal would see four groupings created, based on geographic locations, divided into Atlantic, Central, Midwest and Pacific Divisions. The Eastern and Western Conference would keep their names.

The breakdown for the new divisions would have Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington in the Atlantic.

Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay would be in the Central Division.

Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg would be in the Midwest.

Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix would be in the Pacific.

Under the latest proposal, the top three clubs in each of the four divisions would qualify for the playoffs. The final four positions would go to the two teams in each conference with the next-best records.

The new plan would go into effect for the 2013-14 season.

Meanwhile Tomas Kopecky bagged a hat-trick as the Florida Panthers beat the Atlantic-leading Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4.

It was also a big night for Tomas Fleischmann, who got his 100th goal, while Brian Campbell and Marcel Goc added the others.

Pittsburgh got goals from Chris Kunitz, Dustin Jeffrey, Paul Martin and James Neal, but it was not enough.

The Boston Bruins extended their winning streak to four games with a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

Adam McQuaid, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Greg Campbell got the goals for Boston, while Casey Cizikas tallied for the Islanders.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the shutout as the Washington Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0.

Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, while John Erskine and John Carlson also scored.

Goals from Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers gave the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, making a winner of interim coach Ron Rolston for the first time.

Kyle Chipchura scored twice to help the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Northwest-leading Vancouver Canucks 4-2, while Olli Jokinen netted twice in the Winnipeg Jets' 4-3 win over the New York Rangers.

Loui Eriksson got the overtime winner as the Dallas Stars beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 and Zach Parise did likewise for the Minnesota Wild, who were 2-1 winners over the Calgary Flames.

Finally, the San Jose Sharks beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 via a shoot-out.

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