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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 12/31/2010

Winter Classic time change won't bother the Capitals

By Katie Carrera

By the time the Capitals took the ice for practice this afternoon, the sun was shining down on Heinz Field, and after two previous groups skated, the quality of the surface wasn't nearly as good as it had been for the alumni players and the Penguins.

Several players said the ice was soft and there were a few holes where there was more sun than the others, particularly in corner by the left faceoff circle on the right side of the rink, puddles formed.

Although the Capitals came off the ice prior to the NHL's announcement that the Winter Classic's start time has been changed to 8 p.m. in order to avoid the rain that's forecasted for the Pittsburgh area on Jan. 1, most players said that a delay wouldn't bother them much. In fact, an evening start time makes it more like a regular gameday than a contest in the early afternoon.

"With the way the ice was this afternoon, it was soft, it was wet; I don't think they could play again in the afternoon," Scott Hannan said. "Pushing it to night, it would hopefully be cooler.... If the temperature would drop and the ice would be a little better, I'm sure that would be good."

With the news of the altered start time coming out on Friday, players on both sides can prepare for a game as usual and perhaps not have to worry about psyching themselves up multiple times in the event of a lengthy delay.

"It's kind of more of a routine we get into, if you look at it that way," Jason Chimera said. "I think we'd skate in the morning, so it's kind of like a regular gameday instead of coming to the rink.... We'd get a nap, that's a good thing. It's good to get the whole day to kind of enjoy stuff and get the hype up; the fans can get a couple extra beers in them."

General Manager George McPhee also isn't worried about the new start time impacting the players, saying that "We'll play anytime," while Coach Bruce Boudreau added: "I don't care if they play at midnight. Let's get it going."

Bad ice aside, though, the players all enjoyed their first skate on the ice at Heinz Field. That even goes for Brooks Laich, who admitted he has tried to treat the Winter Classic like any other day at the office.

"Leading up to this, I was downplaying it; that it's just a hockey game, we've got to win it," Laich said. "It still is -- we've got to win this hockey game for it to be a real good memory. It's actually awesome out there. It's actually really, really cool. ... To win this game would be an amazing memory."

By Katie Carrera  | December 31, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Pittsburgh Penguins, Winter Classic  
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Next: Winter Classic video: Alex Ovechkin on learning to adjust

Comments

My dad came to visit and he was asking whether I thought Ovie was hurt. We watched him pretty carefully for a while, and at times during stoppages he seemed to be kind of testing his groin, or maybe his hamstring. He does seem to lack the burst I'm used to seeing.

I am starting to worry. I hope he's not trying to play through something that would get better quicker with rest.

Posted by: youaresquishy | December 31, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

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