Three-way realignment battle looms in NHL

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:01 AM ET

OTTAWA - With Winnipeg back in the NHL, the battle over realignment is set to begin in earnest.

Two league sources told QMI Agency that commissioner Gary Bettman faces a battle in the boardroom with three teams angling to move into the Eastern Conference to replace the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators all want to move.

Expect the Winnipeg franchise to take Atlanta's spot in the Southeast Division for now, as it's likely too late to make changes for the 2011-12 season. Those changes will be discussed over the next six months.

"This is going to be a huge fight," said a league executive.

The Wings have wanted in the East for more than a decade and many believe the Original Six club is finally going to get its wish.

The Jackets and Predators don't have nearly the history and aren't as big a draw on the road — facts that could actually work in their favour.

"The only problem for the Wings is they are a huge draw for a lot of the teams in the Western Conference," said another NHL executive. "They're not going to want to give up those dates when the Wings come to town.

"The Predators and Jackets don't draw nearly as many fans for a lot of those teams as Detroit does. There's going to be a lot of Western teams that won't want to see Detroit moved to the East."

Shifting the Wings to the East would also force realignment within the Northeast, Southeast and Atlantic divisions. It wouldn't make sense to have Detroit play in the south with Washington, Tampa, Carolina and Florida.


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