How many games long will the NHL season be?

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How many games long will the NHL season be?

From Comcast SportsNetThe NHL appears headed toward a 48-game season for the second time in two decades."I think 48 is most likely at this point, unless the players can expedite their ratification process," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email Monday to The Associated Press.The NHL shortened its 82-game slate to 48 games for the 1994-95 season after a 103-day lockout. A 301-day lockout in 2004-05 made the NHL the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season.When the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement was agreed to Sunday morning -- after 16 hours of negotiations -- there was some talk of having a 50-game season start later this month.The NHL and the players' association are working on a memorandum of understanding, which could be completed soon, then voted on by owners and players. The league has circulated a memo to teams telling them to be ready to play by Jan. 19, the date the shortened season is expected to start."As we prepare for the season opener, I want to apologize to all Blues fans, especially our season ticket holders, suite holders, and sponsors," St. Louis Blues owner Tom Stillman said in a statement released by the team. "We share in your disappointment and frustration about the lockout."Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, who was part of the union negotiating team for much of the long work stoppage, expects the NHLPA to conduct a conference call to explain and answer questions about the new CBA before players vote on it online."Of course the league will say if the players hurry up, we can play more games, but there's a reality to consider as well," Westgarth said in a telephone interview Monday from Raleigh, N.C., where he skated informally with some Carolina Hurricanes. "But the first step is for the people who are good with words to get on paper what both sides agreed to."Then, we have to get guys -- who are scattered all over the world -- to understand the agreement before we can start voting."Some NHL players -- including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin -- went overseas during the lockout. Ovechkin, who played for his hometown Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, was welcomed back to Washington by the Capitals, who posted a picture of him on their Twitter account arriving at a local airport.Players -- teammates and opponents -- who stayed in North America have been getting together for months to skate, conduct on-ice drills and work out on their own to stay in relatively good shape.Penguins star Sidney Crosby and nearly a dozen teammates worked out at a suburban Pittsburgh ice rink Monday.For a change, Crosby and the rest of the NHL players knew games will be played after negotiators for both sides -- and an outside mediator -- found a way to revive a sport desperate to regain momentum and boost its prominence.The league and the union agreed to the framework of a 10-year labor contract, ending a bitter dispute that wiped out a large part of the hockey season for the third time in less than two decades. On the 113th day of the lockout and five days before the league's deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. Sunday news conference to announce there would be a season after all.The lockout could wipe out perhaps 1 billion in revenue this season because about 40 percent of the regular-season schedule won't be played.The NHL's revenue of 3.3 billion last season lagged well behind the NFL (9 billion), Major League Baseball (7.5 billion) and the NBA (5 billion). The new deal will lower the players' percentage from 57 to 50 after owners originally had proposed the players get 46 percent.This was the third lockout among the major U.S. sports in a period of just over a year. A four-month NFL lockout ended in July 2011 with the loss of only one exhibition game, and an NBA lockout caused each team's schedule to be cut from 82 games to 66 last season.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”