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NHL Realignment: NHL Approves Four Conference System, Bruins Join Panthers And Lightning

The NHL Board of Governors on Monday approved a new conference realignment that will downsize the league from six conferences to four, putting the Bruins into a conference with the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Summer in New England and winter in Florida? No, this isn't retirement, it's the NHL realignment, giving the Boston Bruins a little company from the boys in the "Sunshine State."

The NHL Board of Governors on Monday (Dec. 5, 2011) approved a new conference realignment that will downsize the league from six conferences to four.

Here's what the new line-up looks like:

The revised conferences are geographically based and designed to alleviate the difficult travel schedule imposed on some teams. The vote needed two-thirds majority of the League's 30 governors and passed on the first of two days of meetings.

From NHL.com:

In the seven-team conferences, teams would play six times -- three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.

The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

The four conference system, which has also been touted as bringing "balance" and a fan-friendly approach to match-ups, is expected to go into effect next season. Names for the individual conferences will be forthcoming.

Stay tuned to SB Nation Boston for more details on the NHL realignment as they become available.