Well, in case you are like a couple of the folks that have tweeted and or sent messages this morning/afternoon: the Winter Classic will kick off this evening at 8:00pm. That is right, the game will be played during prime time programming hours on NBC. The league was very smart in baking in some flexibility this year, as many have told me that they wouldn’t have been able to make this move in the past. Though it was sort of a pain in the behind for some fans and or media folks who were scheduled to leave Pittsburgh this evening, playing the event in the evening could really add some flare!
For those heading down to the event, the parking lots will open at 2:30pm, the spectator plaza will open at 3:00pm and the gates to the venue will open at 5:30pm. Pre-game entertainment will kick off at 7:30pm, with the opening face-off occurring at 8:00pm. If you are down at Heinz Field early, my pal Shawn Roarke from NHL.com will be tailgating in Gold Lot 1 with none other than Duff Goldman, the Ace of Cakes at 3:30pm. They will be passing out free sliders to fans. There are apparently only about 100 or so to be had, so get there early if you intend to get in on the tasting!
In what has become the biggest story of the day, Jordan Staal will indeed play in the game this evening. There has been a lot of speculation that he would lace them up and it has come to pass. Apparently he has been pressing the coaching staff pretty hard to get in the line-up and they have given him the green light. The main hang up was his ability to take a face-off and he proved that his hand could make it happen during this morning’s skate. The team wasn’t originally scheduled to have a skate, but the change in the game’s start time allowed it to happen.
I didn’t take in the skate this morning after spending close to 12 hours at Heinz Field yesterday, but Dan Bylsma has said that he would limit Staal’s minutes. Bylsma mentioned that he hoped to get him something like 14-16 minutes when asked what his work load would be like during his first game back. Bylsma also stated that he would give Staal some time on a line with Evgeni Malkin, as the team had intended to do at the start of the season. Will be great to see big number 11 on the ice for the first time this season.
Everyone is wondering who will come out of the line-up for the Penguins to make room for Staal and Bylsma has said it will be a game time decision. However, folks who were at the skate this morning have said that Craig Adams has sustained a cut on his hand and it could hold him out of the line-up…we shall see.
According to reports, Semyon Varlamov will get the call in goal for the Capitals, as he was the first one off of the ice for the team this morning. Marc Andre Fleury, who missed the penguins first foray into the Winter Classic will get the call for the Birds.
I had a chance to catch up with a number of Penguins and Capitals yesterday afternoon and most of them didn’t seem to concerned with the game time change or the weather. They were all pretty much looking forward to hitting the ice no matter the circumstances. Crosby and Ovechkin were both very excited to renew their team and personal rivalries in what could be an epic evening at Heinz Field.
Here are some of the clips from yesterday for your review…(Audio clips from both sides…)
Capitals: (Sound quality at the beginning of Ovie is a bit rough…they were having a mic problem)
I will be live at Heinz Field in a couple of hours…keep it here for all of the action! More soon…