NEW YORK, March 14 (UPI) -- The NHL Board of Governors has accepted a realignment plan that will divide the league's teams into four divisions, the league announced Thursday.
The NHL currently has three five-team divisions in each conference. Starting next season the realignment will have two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team groups in the Western Conference.
The top three teams from each division will advance for the playoffs with two wild-card teams from each conference qualifying based on point totals regardless of division.
The current conference names -- Eastern and Western -- will be retained but new division names are yet to be announced.
The new Eastern Conference alignment has Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington in one division. The other East Division will have Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.
One division in the Western Conference will include Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg, while the other will consist of Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Detroit and Columbus will move from the Western Conference to the East, while Winnipeg will move from the Eastern Conference to the West.
In the seven-team divisions, teams would play non-divisional conference foes three times per season and five of the six divisional opponents five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times.
The eight-team divisions would feature teams playing non-divisional conference foes three times and divisional opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis.
Teams will play non-conference opposition twice each year, once home and once away.