Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Realignment approved; Zucker out tonight, Bouchard in; Genoway traded

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate, Wild trade news Updated: March 14, 2013 - 1:17 PM

UPDATED

NEW YORK (March 14, 2013) -- The National Hockey League's Board of Governors has approved realignment and a division-based format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, effective for the 2013-14 season. The realignment plan creates two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference. The names of the divisions will be formalized at a later date.

The new alignment will place several clubs in more geographically appropriate groupings and will intensify already-fierce rivalries throughout the League. The new scheduling matrix will ensure that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season.

The new alignment:

WESTERN CONFERENCE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division A Division B Division C Division D

Anaheim Chicago Boston Carolina
Calgary Colorado Buffalo Columbus
Edmonton Dallas Detroit New Jersey
Los Angeles Minnesota Florida NY Islanders
Phoenix Nashville Montreal NY Rangers
San Jose St. Louis Ottawa Philadelphia
Vancouver Winnipeg Tampa Bay Pittsburgh
                                      Toronto Washington

Said GM Chuck Fletcher: "It’s a big deal for our franchise. It’s a great opportunity for our team to reestablish some of the regional rivalries that the North Stars used to have awhile back. We’ll save on some travel costs, but more importantly, the wear and tear that our players are enduring, the travel should be easier, road games will be on TV at a normal time for the most part at hours where more people can watch them.

"It should be great."

Said Wild coach Mike Yeo: "Travel-wise what it's going to do for us is huge. As much as anything else, I love rivalry hockey and I think that's going to bring that here."

Among the many strategic goals achieved by the realignment plan:

* provides the Winnipeg Jets a more geographically suitable grouping of rivals;

* enables the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings to compete primarily against clubs in their own time zone;

* moves the Dallas Stars out of the Pacific Division to a more geographically appropriate and time-zone friendly grouping;

* changes the Minnesota Wild's alignment to a more historically relevant and time zone friendly grouping;

* ensures that the Colorado Avalanche, as the only U.S.-based team in the Mountain Time Zone, is placed in a more geographically suitable grouping.


NEW REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE MATRIX

Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)

Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs.
three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 5 X 5 =25 games
* 1 X 4 = 4 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs.
three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 7 = 21 games

Non-Conference: 32 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 16 = 32 games

(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside Division and one more game inside Conference outside Division)

Eastern Conference (8-Team Divisions)

Within Conference (Division): 30 games
* 5 games vs. two teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. one team, 2 Home/3 Away vs. one
team) AND 4 games vs. five teams (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 5 X 2 =10 games
* 4 X 5 = 20 games

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs.
four teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 8 = 24 games

Non-Conference: 28 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 14 = 28 games


NEW STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FORMAT

Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three "seeds" in each Division).

The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as "Wild Cards," will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.

"Seeding" of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.

The Playoffs will proceed as follows:

* #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 -- winners play each other for berth in Conference Championship
* Conference Finals -- Two advancing teams in the West and two advancing teams in the East meet in Conference Championship
* Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.

The National Hockey League Players' Association has given its consent to play under this new Alignment and Playoff System for a minimum of three seasons, through the 2015-16 NHL season.
 

--------------

Jason Zucker won't play tonight with an upper body injury. He did skate before practice. Yeo anticipates he will go on the upcoming 3-game trip to Denver, Vancouver and Detroit but isn't 100 percent positive yet. If Zucker doesn't, the Wild will need to call up a forward.

Zucker and Charlie Coyle moved into an apartment together yesterday, by the way. All their stuff is still in Houston though. "I just have a suit bag," Coyle said, laughing, quickly adding, "I'm not complaining."

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, scratched in three straight and with two goals and three assists in 20 games, gets in the lineup on the Matt Cullen-Devin Setoguchi line.

"I want to see him come in and not play the type of game where you're afraid of making a mistake, not playing the type of game where you play safe," Yeo said. "I want to see him come in and play with confidence and make a point basically. He has the ability to do that. He has the ability to control the play and create. ... He has to find a way to be a factor."

Niklas Backstrom in goal. Rest of the lines and defense pairs the same. Brett Clark did skate today, but he won't play until he gets a few practices in.

Also, the Wild has traded former University of North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway to the Washington Capitals for a conditional 2014 seventh-rounder. He will report to Hershey. After the Brett Clark signing yesterday, this puts the Wild back to 48 of a maximum 50 contracts. This allows the Wild more flexibility to either sign college free agents maybe or add players at the trade deadline.

Fletcher said the Wild had 10 defensemen in Houston, meaning four healthy scratches a night. This gives Genoway a chance to move on.

I'll be on Hockey Night in Canada radio at 3:30 p.m. CT on XM and NHL Network tonight from the arena cam at 5:40 p.m. CT

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LSU 73
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Miami-Florida 64
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Chicago State 65
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Bowling Green 62 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 57
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West Virginia 61 2nd Half 2:37
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Boston Univ 70
MD-Eastern Shore 60 2nd Half 4:13
Delaware State 56
Wofford 57 2nd Half 0:22
Furman 55
Montana State 68 2nd Half 1:51
Idaho 73
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James Madison 79
Iowa State 69 FINAL
Kansas State 70
Arkansas 55 2nd Half 5:23
Kentucky 78
Missouri State 51 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 65
Fordham 74 FINAL
Massachusetts 82
Nicholls 75 1st OT 2:25
McNeese State 77
East Tenn St 64 2nd Half 0:21
Mercer 64
Coppin State 59 2nd Half 15:48
Morgan State 47
San Diego 72 2nd Half 1:24
Portland 61
Gardner-Webb 62 FINAL
Radford 72
St Francis-PA 67 1st OT 2:34
Robert Morris 59
Duquesne 73 2nd Half 1:44
St Bonaventure 84
Creighton 66 FINAL
Seton Hall 67
Oklahoma State 56 2nd Half 1:07
Texas Tech 60
Alabama 66 FINAL
Vanderbilt 73
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
Virginia 69
Bethune-Cookman 47 2nd Half 1:35
NC Central 69
St Francis-NY 46 2nd Half 1:31
Bryant 60
Drake 57 FINAL
Southern Ill 63
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Fair-Dickinson 60
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Western Mich 53
Texas 34 2nd Half
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Chattanooga 25 2nd Half
UNC Greensboro 27
SE Louisiana 27 1st Half 2:40
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South Dakota St 34 2nd Half
South Dakota 44
Montana 42 2nd Half
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Georgia State 28 1st Half 4:26
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Pepperdine
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NC Central 33
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(1) Connecticut 87
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Texas State 83
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SIU-Edwardsville 72
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TCU 67
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SMU 46
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Central Arkansas 73
Denver 40 FINAL
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Tulane 52 FINAL
Tulsa 54
IUPU-Ft Wayne 56 FINAL
Oral Roberts 84
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Utah State 84
San Diego State 58 FINAL
Boise State 62
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New Mexico 63
Florida A&M 42 FINAL
NC A&T 78
Gonzaga 73 FINAL
BYU 66
South Florida 99 FINAL
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Washington 74
(3) Baylor 71 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Tenn Tech 84 FINAL
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Grand Canyon 56
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CS-Bakersfield 73
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Alabama State 50
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St Marys-CA 74
UNLV 68 FINAL
Wyoming 99
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SC State 52
Alcorn State 3:00 PM
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Miss Valley St 54 FINAL
Jackson State 58
Bucknell 55 FINAL
American Univ 65
Radford 63 FINAL
High Point 83
Eastern Washington 59 FINAL
Montana 69
Idaho 62 FINAL
Montana State 71
Weber State 56 FINAL
Idaho State 63
Green Bay 60 2nd Half 7:36
Youngstown St 22
Oakland 44 2nd Half 9:13
Illinois-Chicago 49
Austin Peay 59 2nd Half 4:53
SE Missouri St 59
Wagner 54 2nd Half 6:05
Mount St Marys 54
Portland 25 2nd Half
San Diego 41
Nevada 40 2nd Half
San Jose St 44
Stephen F Austin 49 2nd Half 12:56
Houston Baptist 44
Incarnate Word 39 2nd Half 16:53
Lamar 56
Abilene Christian 29 2nd Half 18:37
New Orleans 45
Pepperdine 14 2nd Half
Loyola Marymount 32
San Francisco 51 2nd Half 17:19
Pacific 48
Prairie View 35 2nd Half 18:47
Alabama A&M 37
Hampton 45 2nd Half
Howard 25
Chicago State 21 2nd Half
Utah Valley U 33
Cal Poly 23 2nd Half 18:03
Cal-Irvine 46
UC Santa Barbara 21 2nd Half
UC Davis 17
Marshall 32 2nd Half 19:23
Florida Atlantic 44
Portland State 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 123
Western Ky 5:00 PM
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