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NHL sets date for start of Phase Two

Updated June 4, 2020 - 6:19 pm

Golden Knights players can start going to City National Arena again Monday.

The NHL on Thursday announced Phase Two of its return-to-play plan — in which players are allowed to voluntarily work out at team facilities in groups of up to six — will begin Monday. It also announced more details about its return-to-play format, such as the playoffs will be reseeded after every round and feature best-of-seven series for the final 16 teams.

The NHL targeted early June for the start of Phase Two in a 21-page document released May 25 outlining the plan. The length of the protocols needed for voluntary workouts show the labor ahead for the league and the NHL Players’ Association before they move on to Phase Three (training camps) by early July and Phase Four (games) after that.

If the season resumes, the league will ditch its typical fixed postseason bracket. It will reseed after each round to incentivize the top four teams in each conference, who will play one another in a round robin to decide their final seeding.

The new format prevents a top seed from getting a less favorable matchup than a lower one if an upset happens in the best-of-five qualifying round.

That affects the Golden Knights, who will enter the round robin as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 1 St. Louis Blues, No. 2 Colorado Avalanche and No. 4 Dallas Stars to determine seeding. If two teams have equal records after three games, the tie goes to the team with the higher regular-season points percentage.

All teams then will play best-of-seven playoff series through the Stanley Cup Final. When the NHL’s return-to-play plans were announced May 26, it was undetermined how long the first and second rounds would be, but Thursday’s announcement ensures a team will need to win the same number of postseason games (16) as in previous years to lift the Stanley Cup.

The NHL also said typical home-team advantages, such as last change, will go to the higher-seeded team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 in the first and second rounds and the conference finals. They will go to the team with the better regular-season points percentage in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The league still must decide on health and safety protocols for Phases Three and Four and name two hub cities where the games will be played. There are 10 finalists, including Las Vegas.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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