NHL, union meeting again Thursday

NEW YORK -- Talks between the NHL and the players' association have resumed, the third straight day the sides are meeting in an effort to end the lockout.

This is the 54th day of the lockout, and this week is considered critical for the hockey season to be saved.

Owners and players already have bargained for about 13 hours over two days this week at an undisclosed site in New York.

Wednesday's bargaining session, which lasted almost six hours, included discussions on two key issues that have separated the two sides: revenue sharing and the league's "Make Whole" provision to honor players' existing contracts, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.

According to the NHLPA, there are seven players attending Thursday's session: David Backes, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Ron Hainsey, Johan Hedberg, Manny Malhotra and Kevin Westgarth.

The two sides, which have met three times in the past five days, first tackled revenue sharing. Although the NHL repeatedly has downplayed the significance of the practice, the league spent more than three hours discussing the matter Wednesday.

The union wants to see an enhanced revenue-sharing system -- one that would require lucrative clubs to help out struggling teams -- as a fundamental part of the new collective bargaining agreement. In the league's last offer, submitted last month, it offered $200 million, up from $150 million in its previous offer.

The more compelling issue facing the two sides, however, is the "Make Whole" provision.

Before last weekend's clandestine session between NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the two sides were divided on how the provision would work. The league originally proposed deferred payments that ultimately would reduce the players' future share, whereas the union wanted the owners to bear the responsibility.

It is believed that the league has shown a willingness to bend on the "Make Whole" mechanism and absorb some of the financial commitment. It remains unclear, however, how much the league would be willing to shoulder with respect to the damage incurred because of the lockout.

Daly said that $720 million in revenue had been lost when the league was forced to cancel all regular-season games through Nov. 30, although he has not offered any new estimates since the NHL canceled the annual Winter Classic last week.

Time is becoming a bigger factor every day a deal isn't reached. The lockout, which went into effect Sept. 16 after the previous CBA expired, already has forced the cancellation of 327 regular-season games -- including the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic in Michigan.

Whether any of the games that have been called off through Nov. 30 can be rescheduled if an agreement is made soon hasn't been determined. But the NHL already has said that a full 82-game season won't be played.

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun, ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang and The Associated Press was used in this report.