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Bettman says no plans to expand playoffs for more teams

The Colorado Avalanche were 13 games over .500 and couldn't find a spot in the competitive Western Conference playoff party and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes had decent seasons but commissioner Gary Bettman is satisfied with the current format which sees 16 of 30 clubs make it to the post-season.

"The fact is that you wouldn't necessarily have these exciting races in the regular season if you expanded the number of teams in the playoffs," Bettman told The Canadian Press on Monday.

One idea that has been floated is having a mini-round involving teams seventh through 10th in each conference with the two winners joining the six other teams. But that doesn't appear to be winning much support and Bettman isn't sure about the concept, either.

"Finishing seventh or eighth doesn't get you a full-punch ticket to the playoffs (in that format)," Bettman said. "It would be a mini-round and I'm not sure teams would think that that would be a fair tradeoff, at least of those who have informally discussed it with me."

Fans who would like to see the playoffs end by May 31 will have to settle for early June. It's the best the NHL can do.

"We don't want to be starting in September, and we obviously want to finish as early in June as possible," said Bettman. "When teams played less than an 82-game schedule, you could finish earlier. But it doesn't work now."

The NHL announced Monday that attendance, which had slumped behind last year's pace earlier this season, rebounded strong in the second half to finish slightly ahead of last season's record tally. The NHL says teams played to 91.7 per cent capacity this season.

"By and large our attendance remains a strength or this game and this year was no exception," Bettman said. "Which is why it was so frustrating for me at the beginning of the year when I had to keep defending the fact that attendance wasn't a story. And again, this is a testament to the great fans that we have. We're grateful."

The league announced total attendance of 20,861,787 for this season and a per-game average of 16,961, surpassing the 20,854,169 and 16,955 figures from last season.

The Montreal Canadiens led the league in attendance for the second consecutive season thanks to 41 sellouts of 21,273 at the Bell Centre.

The Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes posted the league's largest percentage increases over 2005-06 at 11 per cent each. The Sabres set a franchise record for total attendance by drawing a capacity 18,690 for each home game while the Hurricanes set a franchise mark with a 17,387 average.


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