With an assist from a federal mediator, the NHL and players association appear to be inching closer to a settlement that would end the 113-day lockout.

If an agreement is reached by Friday, a 48-game season would start Jan. 19, with teams likely playing a conference-only schedule.

After both sides talked separately Saturday morning with mediator Scot Beckenbaugh in New York, the parties got together at 1 p.m. (ET) -- the first time they had met in the same room since talks broke down early Thursday.

The NHL is willing to move the 2013-14 salary cap to $63 million, sources said. The league had been seeking a $60 million cap, while the players wanted it set at $65 million.

There were also reports that pension issues were close to being agreed upon, and that the players had accepted the NHL's proposal for a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with a mutual opt-out after eight years. The players had proposed an opt-out after seven years.

Both sides were still meeting at 11:30 p.m.

"Dialogue has been good, and there's been a healthy give and take," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch late Saturday. "We resolved some open issues, but still have a number to go."

At 6 p.m., the NHLPA's vote ended on whether to file a disclaimer of interest. The disclaimer would disband the union and enable players to file a lawsuit that claims the lockout is illegal.


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The union didn't give results of the vote, but the players were expected to overwhelming give permission to its executive board to file the disclaimer. But with Saturday's reported progress, it seems unlikely the disclaimer will be filed for the time being.

Beckenbaugh was a mediator in the NHL's 2004-05 labor dispute. The entire season was canceled.

  • The United States won the junior championships as Rocco Grimaldi scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Sweden in Ufa, Russia. Russia beat Canada 6-5 in the bronze-medal match.

    Baseball

    A person familiar with the situation says Texas reached a deal with Lance Berkman to be the Rangers' designated hitter. The one-year deal worth at least $10 million is pending a physical, the source said. Berkman, 36, was limited by injuries to 32 games for St. Louis in 2012.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers are moving toward signing former Tampa Bay reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year, $2.75 million deal, according to a source.

    Tennis

    Serena Williams won her 47th career title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the Brisbane (Australia) International final. Williams will seek her sixth Australian Open title when that tournament starts Jan. 14 in Melbourne. Andy Murray advanced to the men's final when Kei Nishikori retired with an injured knee while trailing 6-4, 2-0. Grigor Dimitrov beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) in the other semifinal.

  • Spain beat Serbia 2-1 to win the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia. Fernando Verdasco and Anabel Medina Garrigues won the deciding mixed doubles 6-4, 7-5 against Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic. Djokovic took the first match 6-3, 7-5 over Verdasco. Medina Garrigues then beat Ivanovic 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

  • Richard Gasquet won the Qatar Open in Doha, beating Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Having pulled out of this week's Sydney tournament because of elbow trouble, Gasquet said he'll be ready for the Australian Open.

    Horse racing

    Goldencents won the $100,000 Sham Stakes by 1½ lengths at Santa Anita, giving trainer Doug O'Neill another promising 3-year-old a year after he saddled I'll Have Another to Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories. Ridden by Kevin Krigger, Goldencents ran a mile in 1:36.50. The colt is co-owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

  • Jockey Gary Stevens, 49, is launching a comeback after a seven-year retirement. He will ride Jebrica in a $50,000 claiming race Sunday at Santa Anita.

    Soccer

    Demba Ba had two goals, and defending FA Cup champion Chelsea routed Southampton 5-1 in the third round. Also,

    American Will Packwood broke his leg in Birmingham's 1-1 draw against Leeds.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.