The main negotiators in the NHL labor dispute are moving to the sidelines, temporarily leaving the talking up to the lawyers.

The legal counsels for the NHL and NHL Players Association, hoping to clear the way for more bargaining talks between commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Bob Goodenow, wrapped up two days of informal talks Thursday.Two spokesmen, Arthur Pincus of the NHL and Steve McAllister of the union, and a management source all said Thursday they had no knowledge of any further meetings between the lawyers.

The Canadian Press, however, reported negotiations are planned over the weekend. Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher said from Toronto: "There will be more meetings."

Meanwhile, there was no contact Thursday between Bettman and Goodenow, although Pincus confirmed they did speak briefly by phone late Wednesday.

Bettman and Goodenow haven't held face-to-face negotiations since Dec. 6 in Chicago. At that time, they broke off talks once the contentious luxury tax was placed on the bargaining table by owners.

It is the major issue in the dispute. The players have remained firmly entrenched against such a tax on team salaries, which they consider a cap.

"We're down to five or six days (for saving the season)," a management source told The Associated Press.