NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

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NHL, NHLPA agree to mediation in labor talks

After months of not agreeing on much, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to have a third party come in and help these languishing negotiations.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation service director George H. Cohen said in a statement on Monday that hes had separate, informal discussions with the league and PAs top representatives during these negotiations.

Blackhawks player representative Steve Montador hopes this leads to something.

I think its important to move the process along, Montador said via email. If theres merit in this, that's great. While the mediators have no decision making powers to enforce anyone to do anything, I hope the process is taken seriously and a deal can be struck.

Cohen has assigned deputy director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and director of mediation services John Sweeney to be part of the negotiations. Commissioner Guy Serota was also slated to be one of the mediators, but after a mid-afternoon flap regarding Serota's Twitter feed -- most of which has been deleted -- Cohen removed him from the process.

Cohen said in a statement that "it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota, one of the mediators I assigned. Accordingly, in order to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations, I have determined to take immediate action, namely to remove Commissioner Serota from this assignment.

As for the FMCS' part in any upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, Cohen released this statement:

At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices, Cohens statement continued. Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCSs long-standing practice, the agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule andor the status of negotiations until further notice.

The subject of mediation has come up a few times during these negotiations, which havent yielded much progress over several months.

Could it help? It certainly couldnt hurt. The league and players association last met before Thanksgiving, when the PA came with its latest proposal. But the league rejected it, and on Friday canceled the 2012-13 All-Star game and regular-season games through Dec. 14.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, when asked recently if a mediator would be a good idea, said this:

That was suggested by (NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr) maybe a month ago. Dons focus all along has been getting a fair deal. Its not about saving face, looking good in the media. Its more about the present and getting a deal done thats fair, he said. If it means mediation to get to that, both sides should seriously consider it.

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Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

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USA TODAY

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

PITTSBURGH – Well, that looked more familiar, didn’t it?

The Blackhawks put talk into action on Wednesday night, storming out to an early lead and never letting up in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re sitting in a good spot right now, sporting a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild – yes the Wild still has that game in hand – and, with five games remaining, they once again played the complete game they’d been missing.

The schedule doesn’t let up, so let’s get to the notables.

What Worked: The Blackhawks’ first period. If there’s such thing as a statement 20 minutes, the Blackhawks made it in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins made a bad pass, the Blackhawks turned it into an opportunity and, a few times, a goal. The Blackhawks had a similarly sharp first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. On Wednesday, however, they didn’t lose any steam later.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. Yeah, you really have to reach to find something that didn’t work for the Blackhawks in this one. Their power play, however, didn’t do much. Their best chance on it was a Jonathan Toews shot on their second power play; that shot was blocked before it got to Marc-Andre Fleury. Their third power play, which came on a phantom tripping call on Conor Sheary, was their quietest of the night.

Star of the game: Tanner Kero. The kid’s been alright at second-line center, and he did a little bit of everything on Wednesday night. Kero had five shots on goal, the secondary assist on Artemi Panarin’s early goal and added a breakaway goal of his own early in the third period. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. Centering Patrick Kane and Panarin could be daunting but in his short time there, Kero’s handling it very well.

He Said It: “It’s a nice opportunity that he’s taken advantage of in a short amount of time. You get a little more defensive responsibility. The upside with him is we wanted him to get better offensively as well, so it’s been a good couple of games.” Coach Joel Quenneville on Kero.

By the Numbers: 

850 – Career coaching victories for Quenneville.

524 – Career goals for Marian Hossa, who scored his 25th of the season late in the first period.

39 – Time, in seconds, in which the Blackhawks scored two goals late in the first period (Marcus Kruger at 19:05 and Marian Hossa at 19:44).

6 – Consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Penguins. They’ve outscored the Penguins 20-8 over that span.