The NHL says there will be no bargaining with the players' union Saturday, leaving nothing to stop a lockout.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email that the sides have spoken by telephone, but no negotiations will happen before the midnight deadline.
This was the third straight day the sides spoke by phone but avoided the negotiating table. By early afternoon it became clear the league was heading to its fourth work stoppage since 1992.
For nearly a year, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has vowed to lock out players if a collective bargaining agreement wasn't set by the time the current one expires.
It now appears unlikely that training camps will open next week. The regular season had been scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but that is also in peril.