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Reports: A 48-game season will start Jan. 19

The NHL is set on starting the season Jan. 19 and keeping its abbreviated season at 48 games.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the date and schedule length in an email to the Orange County Register; espn.com also reported Jan. 19 as the start date.

After a 113-day lockout, the league had been debating whether to play 50 games starting Jan. 15 or to have a 48-game schedule starting four days later.

A 48-game schedule is the same length as the season in 2005 following another labor stoppage.

The league and NHL Players Association were still working Tuesday on finishing the details of a collective bargaining agreement, which must still be ratified by the union and owners.

Owners will vote today on the agreement. If a majority approves, as expected, the NHL will move one step closer toward the official end of the lockout that began Sept. 16.

Also, TSN reported that each team would play five games against two division opponents, four games against the other two division opponents and three games against the other 10 teams in their conference. Teams would not meet any teams from the other conference.

Kovalchuk will be back from Russia to join Devils

NEWARK, N.J. — Superstar forward llya Kovalchuk has to play for the Devils once the lockout is officially lifted.

Daly said Tuesday that the KHL reaffirmed its intention to honor an agreement with the NHL concerning contracts.

"They would not permit a player who is under a valid and binding NHL SPC (to) continue to play in the KHL once the lockout is officially lifted," Daly said in an email to the Associated Press. "They have confirmed their intention to honor this agreement to us."

There has been some intrigue this week whether Kovalchuk would leave SKA St. Petersburg to return to the Devils. Some reports in Russia said he was concerned that he would make less money playing in a shortened NHL season.

Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with New Jersey in 2010, played a KHL game Tuesday.

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello wasn't worried.

"I have no knowledge of anything other thank him coming back," Lamoriello said in a telephone interview.

SABRES: The team's owner apologized to fans for the lockout as players started to trickle back in to start preparing for the season. "On behalf of the Pegulas and the Sabres, we do apologize that fans have to go through this," team president Ted Black said, referring to team owner Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim. "We're back in business. … And we're going to do whatever we can to get back on track to the mission that Terry has laid out for us: And that's to win the Stanley Cup."

HUSELIUS RETIRES: Veteran forward Kristian Huselius announced his retirement, prohockeytalk.com reported. Huselius made the announcement in Swedish media, saying he could not recover well enough from a hip injury. The 34-year-old played briefly for AIK of the Swedish Elite League during the lockout.

Reports: A 48-game season will start Jan. 19 01/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 11:31pm]
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