The NHL and the players’ association agreed on issues related to player safety and drug testing Friday, but the core economic divide that is preventing an end to the league’s latest lockout was not even on the agenda.
The sides returned to the bargaining table after more than two weeks apart, and some progress was made in about two hours of discussions during a morning session.
‘‘You would absolutely hope that things progress and kind of catch fire, but right now we’re just going to take it one step at a time and try to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible,’’ said former player Mathieu Schneider, now an NHLPA special assistant to the executive director. ‘‘We’re taking baby steps right now.’’
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took part in Friday morning’s talks, but union head Donald Fehr wasn’t present. He joined the discussions during the afternoon.
The sides also were expected to meet over the weekend.
‘‘It says that both sides are committed to getting back to the table and working,’’ Schneider said.
Schneider added that there were agreements on more rigorous drug testing, expanding it to parts of the year during which testing is not currently done.
Neither side sees the use of performance-enhancing drugs as a problem in the NHL.
‘‘We’re in agreement that it’s not an issue in our sport,’’ Schneider said.
Other topics on tap through the weekend are various health and safety issues, time players spend at training facilities, and other non-economic topics.
Tavares to Bern
Swiss hockey club Bern said it has signed Islanders center John Tavares. Tavares will join Islanders captain Mark Streit, arguably Switzerland’s best export to the NHL, with the club. Tavares was the first pick of the 2009 NHL draft . . .Ice Hockey Federation is operating on the assumption that NHL players will take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. ‘‘We've prepared everything with the idea that NHL players will be there,’’ IIHF president Rene Fasel said.