From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- NHL labor negotiations will resume Wednesday, with mediators rejoining the talks at an undisclosed location in an effort to save the hockey season.The Canadian Press on Tuesday reported the restart of bargaining between the league and union, citing unidentified people on both sides of the lockout.U.S. federal mediators Scot Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney are to return to the process. They took part in sessions Nov. 27 and 28 before deciding they couldn't help.The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, based in Washington, also was involved during the lockout that canceled the 2004-05 NHL season, with Beckenbaugh attending sessions.As recently as last week, Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated he didn't think mediators would be able to help bridge the gap."We're not interested in mediation," he said Thursday. "We went through it a week and a half ago. It was of no value because of the position of the parties."Tuesday marked the 87th day of the lockout. Wednesday's session will be the first meeting since the sides blamed each other after talks broke off last week.Until then, they appeared to be making progress during three days in New York in which they exchanged proposals. Union executive director Donald Fehr maintains there are agreements on almost all the important issues.From the league's point of view, three main issues remain: the length of the collection bargaining agreement, rules governing term limits on contracts and the transition rules to help teams get under the salary cap.There are also secondary issues yet to be agreed on, including the continued participation of NHL players in the Olympics, the international calendar and drug-testing rules.In all, more than 40 percent of the regular season that was scheduled to begin Oct. 11 has been scratched.The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, canceling games through Dec. 30 in addition to the New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, which were already wiped out.The latest cancellations generally were regarded as both bad news and good news.While losing another two weeks hurts the league and the players, the fact that the NHL did not take more games off the schedule sparked speculation owners are holding out hope of making a deal that could start the season in early January.Bettman has said the league would not want to play anything less than a 48-game season, which is what it had after 1994-95 lockout ended.
Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.
Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.
Five Things to Watch:
1. Grab the first goal.
The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.
2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?
After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.
3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.
With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.
4. The triplets reunited?
In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.
5. Take advantage on special teams.
The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action
- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch
- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered
- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes
- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse