Bettman said the league already has scheduled meetings with the NHL Players Association in April and May in an attempt to head off a possible lockout. He wants "a rational and fair relationship between revenues and expenses."
While repeatedly saying he wanted a deal with the union that reduced costs for teams, he declined to be more specific. He also ruled out any possible contraction.
"The word contraction does not exist in my or the NHL's vocabulary," he said. "Any suggestion that the Capitals or any franchise is either moving or contracting is nothing more than unsubstantiated and irresponsible rumor mongering."
Also, Bettman thinks the league will be able to replace its expiring TV contract with ABC and ESPN with a favorable deal.
* Florida's Donald Audette was suspended by the NHL for two games and Atlanta's Ronald Petrovicky was penalized for one game after separate violations. Audette was suspended for kicking the Islanders' Sven Butenschon on Wednesday. Petrovicky was penalized for kneeing Buffalo's J.P. Dupont the same night.
In games last night:
* At Ottawa, Peter Schaefer and Wade Redden scored first-period goals and Patrick Lalime made 23 saves for his first shutout in more than 2 months to lead the Senators over Colorado, 2-0.
* At Boston, Manny Fernandez stopped 31 shots for his second shutout of the season and Stephane Veilleux scored his first goal since 2002 to lead Minnesota over the Bruins, 2-0.
* At Tampa, Tim Taylor snapped a tie 52 seconds into the third period as the Lightning beat Buffalo, 3-1. First-place Tampa Bay leads the Flyers by three points in the Eastern Conference.
* At Los Angeles, Jonathan Cheechoo and Curtis Brown each scored two goals as San Jose defeated the Kings, 5-3.
* At Dallas, Jason Arnott and Bill Guerin each had a goal and two assists, and the Stars stretched their franchise record, home-unbeaten streak to 16 games with a 3-0 victory over Vancouver. Marty Turco made 20 saves for his 20th career shutout.
* At Glendale, Ariz., Erik Westrum's third-period goal and Brian Boucher's 46 saves lifted Phoenix into a 1-1 tie with Detroit. Brendan Shanahan scored for the Wings, who lead the Western Conference by four points.
* At Calgary, Jarome Iginla scored his 37th goal and Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves as the Flames beat Columbus, 2-0.
* At Washington, Kip Miller spoiled Jaromir Jagr's return to Washington by scoring a power-play goal in overtime that gave the Capitals a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers. *