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NHL Sees Leveling of the Ice

When the NHL's salary cap was instituted in 2005, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland predicted that all 30 teams would miss the playoffs at least once over the next five seasons.

As the cap system enters its fifth year with season openers Thursday, he hopes his forecast is inaccurate. The Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks are the only teams to reach the playoffs all four seasons under the cap.

The Red Wings could be hurt because a small salary-cap increase prevented them from re-signing several key offensive contributors, including Marian Hossa, who accounted for 88 goals.

"The salary cap has brought competitive balance to the league," Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said.

In 2003-04, the Red Wings' payroll was $58 million higher than the Predators'. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the difference between the top and bottom payrolls can't exceed $16 million.

The upper limit this season was set at $56.8 million.

Also this season:

The Pittsburgh Penguins begin defense of their Stanley Cup title Friday when they raise their championship banner. Center Evgeni Malkin appears poised to make a run for the MVP trophy after two seasons as runner-up.

The league will suspend play from Feb. 14 to March 1 to allow its players to participate in the Vancouver Olympics. There will be no All-Star Game.

The Phoenix Coyotes are waiting for a bankruptcy judge's ruling on whether they'll stay in Arizona or head to Canada.

The Coyotes, along with the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs, are the only teams to fail to make the playoffs under the salary cap.

"Is parity here? Absolutely," Holland said. "And each and every year, there is more parity."

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