More NHL games erased

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There isn't much doubt about how the vote will turn out.

The only uncertainty might be whether it proves to be unanimous.

But regardless of the margin, the 700-plus members of the NHL Players' Association -- the ones who bother to make their feelings known, anyway -- are certain to give the group's executive board permission to file a disclaimer of interest in connection with the lockout that has shut down the NHL for more than three months.

Balloting will end today, and, once the executive board receives clearance to make that move, it will have until Jan. 2 to do so, assuming it determines that would be prudent.

The prevailing sentiment outside the NHLPA is that the union will, in fact, follow that course, although union officials have given no public indication of their plans.

A disclaimer of interest would entail the NHLPA notifying the league that it no longer represents its members. If the players lack such representation, the lockout could be deemed illegal and individual players would be free to file antitrust lawsuits against the league.

The NHL filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan a week ago in anticipation of the NHLPA taking such a step and sought to have the validity of the lockout affirmed.

The league and players have not negotiated since late last week, when a second attempt at federal mediation failed to produce any progress, and no further meetings have been announced.

Against that backdrop, it was no surprise when the NHL announced Thursday that games have been canceled through Jan. 14.

That raises the total of games lost because of the labor dispute to 625, which is 50.8 percent of a normal regular-season schedule. The Jan. 27 All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, also has been called off.

Cancellations are largely symbolic at this point, because, if a portion of the 2012-13 season is salvaged, the schedule will have to be redone.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear that the league does not want a regular season with fewer than 48 games.

That being the case, play likely would be limited to intra-conference games and would have to begin around mid-January in order to minimize the risk of the Stanley Cup playoffs spilling too far into July.

NOTES -- Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux has been named Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine. He earned similar recognition in 1999. ... With many of the Penguins who participate in player-organized workouts at Southpointe out of town for the holidays, defensemen Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy were the only team members to participate Thursday in a practice there. They are expected to be the only ones there this morning as well.

mobilehome - penguins

Dave Molinari: and Twitter: @molinaripg.


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