The NHL canceled another round of regular-season games Monday as the ongoing lockout swallowed almost the entire month of December.

The league cut all games between Dec. 15 and Dec. 30 and now has lost 526 in all. The lockout began Sept. 15 at the expiration of the previous collective bargaining agreement. It is the third lockout since the 1994-95 season, and this latest development could push the fate of the 2012-13 season to the brink.

Why? Because while the 2004-05 season was canceled Feb. 16, 2005, this time around the NHL and the NHL Players' Association likely need a deal in place by mid-January at the latest to salvage a partial season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press on Monday that the two sides expect to resume talks later this week. They broke off in spectacular fashion Thursday when NHLPA executive director Don Fehr held an optimistic news conference that was quickly refuted by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

That makes 42.8 percent of the season lost, according to the league. Bettman repeatedly has denied owners have decided on a drop-dead date by which time an agreement must be reached or the entire season will be canceled for the second time in eight years. But it's difficult to see how the NHL can conduct a 48- to 54-game season -- the lowest the league wants to go, according to Bettman -- if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached in the next month. The 1994-95 season began Jan. 20 after a lockout that year was concluded Jan. 11. That season each team played 48 games.

- Brian McNally