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Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK - NHL officials and players are continuing Tuesday to try to chip away at their bargaining differences as they are meeting in small groups, and on conference calls, before assembling for a formal face-to-face bargaining session that is expected to begin after 5 p.m ET.

League officials worked well into the night on New Year's Eve reviewing a players' counter-proposal that was presented on Monday afternoon. The NHL Players' Association hasn't revealed any details of its proposal, and the fact that they have not leaked out might speak to how seriously both parties are now about trying to save a 48-game season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Monday night that the NHL has targeted Jan. 19 as the date the league needs to launch to play 48 games. That means owners and players have about 10 days to reach an agreement or face the possibility of the NHL losing its second season to a lockout. The 2004-05 season was canceled by a labor dispute.

The current lockout is in its 108th day, and the two sides still have a handful of a significant issues to resolve, even though players have agreed to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, which was the league's primary objective.

The important issues include a cap on individual contracts that owners are seeking, plus a limit on year-to-year variance on multi-year contracts. The two sides are also at odds over compliance rules, such as the allowance of buyouts, that will have to be in place as teams adjust to a lower cap in 2013-14.

The NHL's latest proposal called for a six-year cap on contracts with a 10% variance. Teams can go to seven years if re-signing their players. One buyout would be allowed per team, but it would count against the players' share of revenue.

Players are concerned about how much money they will have to place in escrow in the second season when the cap drops to $60 million. There are also some pension concerns, and the two sides disagree on how long the new collective bargaining agreement should be. The NHL wants a 10-year deal with an eight-year opt-out.

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