Florida Panthers

Panthers Included in 24-Team Playoff Format If NHL Play Resumes

Florida would play New York Islanders under 24-team playoff format

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The Florida Panthers are one of 24 teams that would return to action in a playoff format if the NHL resumes play this summer.

Under the plan released Tuedsay by Commissioner Gary Bettman, the Panthers would play the New York Islanders in a best-of-five series.

Bettman said voluntary workouts could begin in early June and formal camps aren't expected to begin before July 1. Those camps are expected to last roughly three weeks as players return to the ice for the first time in months.

There would be no regular season and instead of limiting the Cup chase to the usual 16 teams that qualify for the playoffs, the league and players agreed to expand the field to 24 of its 31 teams because of the unusual circumstances.

The top four teams in each conference ranked by points percentage — Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East and St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West — will play separate round-robin tournaments to determine seeding.

The remaining 16 teams will be seeded by conference and play a best-of-five series.

Games are expected to be played in two hub cities and Bettman said and 10 are in the running: Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Las Veas, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the U.S. and Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.

While there are still details to work out, including whether the first two rounds are best of five or seven, Bettman said he expects the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final to be played in full in one of the two hub cities.

The Panthers were three points out of the last playoff spot in the East when play halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association must still figure out health and safety protocols and solve other issues.

Earlier this week, the league and NHLPA issued extensive protocols once players are allowed to return to their facilities. They include a maximum of six players on the ice at a time, no contact and no coaches for voluntary workouts.

AP and NBC 6
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