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NHL formally approves realignment to four divisions

The biggest winners in the NHL's realignment plan are the Jets, Red Wings and Blue Jackets. (QMI...

The biggest winners in the NHL's realignment plan are the Jets, Red Wings and Blue Jackets. (QMI Agency/Reuters/Files)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:01 PM ET

Get ready for a new look to the NHL standings and playoff format starting next season.

The NHL's realignment plan was approved by the board of governors Thursday, returning the league to four divisions for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

The Eastern Conference will have two divisions of eight teams while the Western Conference will feature two divisions of seven, with groupings according to time zones.

On the move are the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, both of which will slide to the East, and the Winnipeg Jets will shift to the West.

The new alignment also ensures that all 30 teams play in every rink at least once a season.

The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will be grouped with the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks in Division A.

The Winnipeg Jets will move to Division B, which also features the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.

Four of the Original Six franchises are grouped in Division C as the Detroit Red Wings join the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. The Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning fill out the rest of the division.

Division D will see the Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals join the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The NHL has yet to formally name the four divisions.

The league also changed its playoff seeding format. The new plan sees the top three teams in each division earning a playoff spot and the remaining four wild-card spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed teams in each conference, based on regular-season points.

The wild-card team with the least amount of points will face the first-place team in each conference in the first round of the playoffs, while the second- and third-placed teams will face each other.

The playoff format continues in the next round with the division final, then the conference final and finally the Stanley Cup final.


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