Bettman expects 2012 realignment

Commissioner Gary Bettman believes the NHL will adopt a more balanced schedule when the relocated Winnipeg franchise likely moves to the Western Conference in 2012.

In his annual state-of-the-league address before the Stanley Cup finals opener Wednesday, Bettman also said he thinks the NHL will begin issuing harsher suspensions for rough play.

Bettman is grateful his league doesn’t have the specter of labor talks hanging over an otherwise successful season. He plans to let the labor impasses in the NFL and the NBA play out before hammering out hockey’s next collective bargaining agreement with union head Donald Fehr, who attended the commissioner’s address.