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Report: Players fought against best-of-3 series due to fear of Price, Kane

Richard Wolowicz / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With the NHL reportedly in the midst of voting on an unprecedented 24-team playoff format, clubs weren't willing to give two of the league's biggest stars an easy chance to disrupt the postseason.

"The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said Friday on Sportsnet 590's "Lead Off." "They felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said 'two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.'"

Friedman added: "If the players feel that way, the players feel that way. They're the guy that they gotta shoot against and they clearly believe that he is a difference-maker ... The players fought the two-out-of-three because of him."

Under the current proposed 24-team format, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be tasked with facing the 24th-placed Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five play-in series. The Penguins were nearly guaranteed a playoff berth at the time of the season's pause on March 12, whereas the Canadiens seemed destined for a lottery pick.

Price has a career .914 save percentage in the playoffs and is widely seen as the league's best goaltender despite his lackluster play of late. He was voted the best goalie by his peers in the 2019-20 NHLPA player poll.

Similar sentiments were felt in the Western Conference about Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks in a short series.

"I did hear that the Western teams - and now it's going to be Edmonton - they were like, 'two out of three with Patrick Kane? I mean come on.' But it wasn't at the same level as Price."

Friedman added that the results of the vote on the proposed 24-team format are expected to be known on Friday evening or Saturday.

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