Early regular-season NHL games on brink of elimination

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They understand the situation, and they certainly can do the math.

But that doesn't mean that they're all prepared to accept what seems inevitable to so many others.

Oh, the Penguins players who have been conducting informal workouts at Southpointe realize the NHL is just days -- maybe hours -- from announcing that some early regular-season games will be wiped by the lockout that has shut down the league for the past 2 1/2 weeks, and they understand why those cancellations are all but guaranteed.

After all, the 2012-13 season is scheduled to begin in just nine days, but the league and its players association barely have touched, let alone focused, on the core economic issues that separate the parties from a settlement.

Still, at least some of those players aren't ready to concede that start of the season will be pushed back. Never mind that even Penguins player representative Craig Adams volunteered Monday that "it would be a stretch at this time" to suggest the 2012-13 season will begin Oct. 11, as planned.

"I don't know," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "There's a difference between what you hope and what you think.

"I think everybody's preparing ... like we want to start on time. [Adams] says right now that things aren't good, but we all know that all is takes is a little bit of movement and, hopefully, we'll get something done."

The sides did not meet Monday, but are scheduled to get together today to talk about hockey-related revenue issues that were discussed Saturday.

Although NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr conducted a conference call to update association members on what transpired during three days of discussions over the weekend, Adams already had done that for the others who took part in a workout session Monday at Southpointe.

Adams sat in on the talks Friday and Saturday and briefed his teammates on just how dire the outlook for a quick resolution is at the moment. In a word, very.

A new collective bargaining agreement isn't the only thing the NHL will need before it starts to stage regular-season games. Some sort of training camp, however abbreviated, will have to be held once labor peace is reached.

Because the start of the season is pretty much assured of being delayed, it's a given that there wouldn't be a standard-length camp once the next CBA is in place.

That could be a problem for players straddling the line between a job in the NHL and one in the American Hockey League. Last fall, fourth-line center Joe Vitale earned a spot on the major league roster because he had a full camp with which to impress the coaching staff and management.

"The full camp really benefits guys on the cusp, like I was last year," he said. "If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't be here."

This year, however, Vitale says he wouldn't require nearly that long to get ready for games.

"A good few days of skating at a good pace, then hammering the systems down again," he said. "Then a day off, and ready to go."

Lovejoy expressed a similar sentiment.

"I think we could go very quickly," he said. "Guys don't take summers off now. Guys work really hard all summer. We've been here since mid-August playing hockey.

"We skate for almost two hours a day. I think it would be a lot of classroom time, but I think we could start very quickly.

"You could tell us, 'You have a game in four days.' It would be a rush, but it would be a rush for everybody. I think guys would love that, be excited and ready to go."

Only nine Penguins players took part in a workout Monday -- that's down from a high in the mid-teens a couple of weeks ago -- but the participants said they have no plans to call off future practices.

Never mind that Sidney Crosby temporarily has moved his training to Colorado, or that Kris Letang has returned to Quebec to play in a series of player-run games. Or that James Neal is back in Ontario.

"Some guys have their own thing going on, whether they're playing in charity games or training at home or just getting a change of scenery for a little bit," Adams said. "I'm sure we'll have some of those guys back at some point."

NOTE -- Penguins center Evgeni Malkin did not have a point and failed to score on his shootout attempt in Metallurg Magnitogorsk's 2-1 shootout loss Monday to CSKA in a Kontinental Hockey League game. Malkin had four shots on goal and won 15 of 29 faceoffs.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 2, 2012 4:00 AM


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