Changes are afoot in the American Hockey League as the Board of Governors approved both division realignment and changes to their playoff format. The league will move from its previous four division format to a three divisions per conference setup. The Eastern Conference will host the Atlantic, Northeast and East Divisions, while the Western Conference will be home to the North, Midwest and West.

At first glance there appears to be a couple of travel nightmares, including Oklahoma City playing in the same division as the Abbotsford, B.C. based Heat as well as the Charlotte Checkers being relegated to the Midwest Division. Anyway, here’s the new alignment:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division: Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, Worcester Sharks, St. John’s (nameless)
Northeast Division: Adirondack Phantoms, Albany Devils, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Connecticut Whale, Springfield Falcons
East Division: Binghamton Senators, Hershey Bears, Norfolk Admirals, Syracuse Crunch, Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton Penguins

Western Conference

North Division: Grand Rapids Griffins, Hamilton Bulldogs, Lake Erie Monsters, Rochester Americans, Toronto Marlies
Midwest Division: Charlotte Checkers, Chicago Wolves, Milwaukee Admirals, Peoria Rivermen, Rockford Icehogs
West Division: Abbotsford Heat, Houston Aeros, Oklahoma City Barons, San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars

The newly approved Calder Cup Playoff changes mimic the NHL’s current format, via TheAHL.com:

The format for the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs was also approved by the Board of Governors. Eight teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the three division winners earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded fourth through eighth.

The conference quarterfinals will be best-of-five series; the conference semifinals, conference finals and Calder Cup Finals will be best-of-seven series. Teams will be re-ordered after the first round so that the highest-remaining seed plays the lowest-remaining seed.

The 2011-12 AHL season kicks off on October 7th.