The NHL moved a step closer to realignment Thursday as the players' association approved a proposed plan that is set to go into effect next season.
Now that the league has gotten the go-ahead from union chief Donald Fehr, the NHL will only need to get approval from team owners to put it in place.
Fehr signed off on the plan after discussions with the union's executive board and said the realignment issue will be "re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season."
No official details of the changes have been released by the NHL, but it is widely believed that teams such as Detroit and Columbus will be put into more travel-friendly divisions in the Eastern time zone, and the Winnipeg Jets -- formerly the Atlanta Thrashers -- will leave the Southeast Division for a spot in the Western Conference.
Up until now, there has been an even split of teams with 15 in each conference. Under the new plan, the East will have 16 clubs in it -- making playoff qualification a bit tougher.
Out West, the new Pacific Division will be made up of the Sharks, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Vancouver. The new Midwest Division will feature Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St.
The Atlantic Division in the East will be comprised of Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York's Rangers and Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. The Central Division will contain Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Capitals 7, Panthers 1: John Erskine, Wojtek Wolski, John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro all scored before the game was 8½ minutes old, and the Capitals climbed out of a tie for last in the Eastern Conference.
Florida's Jacob Markstrom allowed two goals on two shots and was pulled after 3 minutes, 10 seconds -- the fastest yanking of an NHL goalie for something other than an injury in more than a year, according to STATS LLC. Markstrom's replacement, Scott Clemmensen, didn't fare much better, giving up two goals in the first six shots.
Blue Jackets 2, Canucks 1: Matt Calvert carried the puck almost from end to end, twice avoiding opposing players, before skating to the slot and scoring on a rising wrist shot in overtime for host Columbus.
Calvert took a pass from Fedor Tyutin deep in the defensive zone and chipped the puck along the right boards while twice fighting off defenders. He then went unimpeded to the right hash before whipping the puck high over the glove side of goalie Cory Schneider.
Stars 5, Kings 2: Jaromir Jagr had his first multi-goal game since opening night, Brenden Morrow got the go-ahead goal in the third period, and Dallas ended the Kings' six-game home winning streak.
The goal was Jagr's ninth of the season and 674th of his career -- 10th on the NHL's all-time list.
Blues 6, Coyotes 3: Patrik Berglund scored twice in a span of 2:22 to lift visiting St. Louis. Chris Stewart got a goal and two assists as the Blues won after two straight losses.
Rangers 2, Islanders 1: Marian Gaborik scored a power-play goal 42 seconds into overtime.