The Washington Times - February 23, 2013, 09:13PM

NHL realignment could go into effect for the 2013-14 season, but according to a report by Elliotte Friedman on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” Saturday, it won’t have the same look as proposed a year ago.

There’s still a divisional imbalance, but, according to Friedman, the Easternmost divisions will have more teams. The Washington Capitals would play in an eight-team division with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

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That’s a change from the original proposal, which did not have Columbus in with the former Patrick Division and the Hurricanes.

According to Friedman, here is the full breakdown of the divisions:

I: Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Hurricanes, Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Blue Jackets

II: Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Panthers, Canadiens, Senators, Lightning, Maple Leafs

III: Blackhawks, Avalanche, Stars, Wild, Predators, Blues, Jets

IIII: Ducks, Kings, Coyotes, Sharks, Canucks, Flames, Oilers

When the NHL Players’ Association did not grant consent for last year’s realignment plan, one of its qualms was the unequal chances of teams in seven- and eight-team divisions qualifying for the playoffs. That’s still an issue, even though Friedman also reported a “wild card” proposal is being discussed. It’s uncertain what that means.

It also was not immediately clear if there would be conference play, which would mean 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West. Under last year’s plan, each division would essentially operate as an independent entity, with teams playing home-and-home against every out-of-division opponent.

The Caps, from a fan standpoint, figure to benefit from any realignment that gives them more home games (and more games overall) with more traditional rivals like the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers. From a competitive standpoint, this realignment makes it more difficult for them to make the playoffs if Washington needs to be in the top four in a division to get in.

Columbus doesn’t jump out as a traditional rival, but this format eases that organization’s travel costs and the wear from playing in the West.

Caps NHLPA rep Jason Chimera played four-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets. Asked if Columbus deserved a chance to move into the East, he said: “I can’t say who deserves what. But I think it’d be good to make it as easy on every team possible to make it better games, for sure. I think that would make better games.”