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He wasn’t ready to call Saturday’s meeting a reason for optimism yet.

“It’s a positive thing that we are talking when we weren’t talking for some time,” he said. “We could be talking about other things, so I’m not sure I’d go there.

“We’re continuing the dialogue. It’s very much an up-and-down process, so it’s hard to say. It’s good that we’re talking and we’re going to talk again tomorrow, hopefully for quite a while.”

Some progress was made on Friday on secondary issues related to player safety and drug testing, areas that weren’t expected to be contentious. The league and union held two sessions then that totaled about five hours and included an initial meeting between Bettman and Fehr.

At least they got back to talking _ which hadn’t happened since a few days before the NHL locked out its players.

All of the issues, big and small, must be ironed out before hockey can get out of the board room and back on the ice. So while the divisive topics still need to be tackled, the smaller ones have to be worked on, too.

The sides still aren’t moving closer to a compromise while they talk about other issues.

And that is where the frustration lies. The NHL is waiting for the players’ association to make a counterproposal to one the league made in the previous bargaining session more than two weeks ago.

The NHL contends it has stated its position and needs the players’ association to make what the league would consider a meaningful counter.

“The whole process is a bit complicated when you’re trying to define revenue streams and what should be in and what should be out (of hockey-related revenue),” Steve Fehr said. “It’s a bit complicated between the fact that their most recent economic offer says they will go back to the current definitions, yet they are seeking some changes or clarifications in what the current definitions are.”

Monetary issues are not expected to come up for discussion in this round of talks. Neither side has indicated it is prepared to make a new offer now regarding how to split up the more than $3 billion annual pot of hockey-related revenue.

Saturday’s talks came two days after the league canceled the remaining preseason games. The regular season is scheduled to start on Oct. 11.

If a deal isn’t reached soon, regular-season games will be in danger of being lost. The NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season because of a lockout that eventually led to the collective bargaining agreement that expired this month.