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NHL Prepares New, Shorter Schedule

Many of the details need to be worked out, but the National Hockey League is gearing up for an abbreviated season  that could finish around the Fourth of July.

The ice sheet is still down in First Niagara Center, held over since the farm team Rochester Americans packed the house December 28 for a game against the Lake Erie Monsters.

There may soon be Sabres players on that ice but when players can start practicing is one of the details being worked out between the NHL and the players union after the two sides reached an agreement in principle on a new contract early yesterday.

Buffalo hockey writer Dave Ricci says another detail is the number of games in an abbreviated season.

"They're just in the process of finally just ratifying the final details of the agreement. And, they are still trying to work on hopefully getting a 50-game season underway," Ricci said.

"They have said all along they want no fewer than a 48-game season."

Ricci says it isn't clear when all of the Sabres players can assemble, since some are currently playing in Europe.