The Boston Bruins would be among the teams to advance to the playoffs ©Getty Images

The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has approved a plan for a 24-team playoff format to help conclude the current season.

The professional ice hockey league, which features teams from Canada and the United States, was suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The current regular season had been due to conclude on April 4, leading into the Stanley Cup playoffs and finals.

The Stanley Cup Finals were expected to conclude in June.

Traditionally 16 teams play in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the NHL is expected to adopt a 24-team format for this season due to the pandemic.

The NHLPA confirmed it had voted in favour of a 24-team format.

"The Executive Board of the NHLPA has authorised further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup," the NHLPA said.

"Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play."

The format is aimed at helping to conclude the current season ©Getty Images
The format is aimed at helping to conclude the current season ©Getty Images

Under the plan the top four teams in each conference when the regular season was paused, based on a points percentage, would receive byes through to the second round of the playoffs.

The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers would advance from the Eastern Conference, while the St Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars would qualify from the West.

The remaining 16 teams in the playoffs would compete in a best-of-five series.

This would determine the teams to advance through to the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoff.

The traditional format would be held over seven-game series.

A joint statement could be made this week to confirm the proposed plan.

No timeframe has yet been officially released for the potential return to action.