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NHL board of governors sees scoring drop as temporary, wraps up meeting without big changes @NHLdotcom

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -The NHL's board of governors believes the league's scoring downturn is just a temporary condition.

The league's owners and top executives adjourned their two-day meeting Friday by agreeing to leave their game alone for the time being. Though they discussed nearly every aspect of the league, commissioner Gary Bettman and many governors believe the extensive rule changes after the lockout deserve more time to grow.

"We need to constantly poke and prod and be vigilant, but we need not be revolutionary," Bettman said after the sessions in a posh golf resort on the Monterey Peninsula. "We need not be impatient. We need to see how it evolves and how it all settles in."

Bettman and the board again discussed several proposals floating in the hockey world to increase scoring, which is slightly down for the second straight season since the initial year after the lockout. NHL teams average 5.4 goals per game this season, down from 6.2 just two seasons ago.

Most governors see the change as cyclical. They also see obvious reasons for the downturn that can't be addressed by changing the rules or the size of equipment.

"The way the game is played today, there's a lot of good coaches," New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. "There's a lot of smart, tactical people playing the game the way it should be played. ... I think it's a wonderful game the way it is today. Just because the goal-scoring is not as high as everybody would like it to be, I don't think there's anything wrong with the game."

While a few governors, including Buffalo Sabres president Larry Quinn, favor a more aggressive examination of the game, the board entertained no formal proposals for rule changes Friday. The league rulers made their most interesting moves Thursday night, selecting a schedule format with fewer intradivision games and approving the sale of the Nashville Predators.

Bettman described any changes to the size of the nets as a "last resort." The board seems more interested in further limiting the size of goalie equipment, a proposal that would probably be accepted by the players.

"I think we were revolutionary when we came out of the lockout, and there was a period of adjustment," said Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the board. "I don't think there's enough pattern there to make a judgment on it. I've got one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, and we had seven goals the other night. I think there's a fluctuation going on."

The NHL's reduction of intradivision games from 32 to 24 was the biggest change coming out of Pebble Beach, with only Buffalo, New Jersey, Anaheim and the New York Islanders voting against a move widely favored by players.

Bigger scheduling changes could be in the making, perhaps as soon as the 2009-10 season. Several governors seemed receptive to players union head Paul Kelly's thoughts on an 84-game schedule, adding more contests against the other conference to every team's schedule.

Bettman also said the league didn't discuss the possibility of expanding. The NHL is on pace for another year of record revenues even without adding more teams, and the money will lead to another rise in the salary cap - a development the board can understand, if not exactly love.

"The salary cap is a reaction to how the NHL is performing, so it fits within the agreement," said Jacobs, one of the outspoken owners whose desire to curb spending drove the lockout three years ago.

"You may not want it to go up for your own personal reasons, but on the other hand, recognize the realities," he said. "We're going to be giving the players more money than ever before. They're being enriched and rewarded for the success of the league. Hopefully we'll be giving them more money going forward."

League executives Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom made a presentation on the state of the officiating, pointing out marked decreases in obstruction since the lockout. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation officials also spoke to the gathering.

The board also listened to a presentation from Alan Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council, on ways to improve the game's environmental impact. Bettman said players have expressed interest in such steps.

"Perhaps (we) present the most graphic visual with respect to global warming, when you hear people talking about the ice melting," Bettman said.

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