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Visiting Flyers hope to keep tradition going

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- There's good news and bad news for the Philadelphia Flyers now that they're locked in as the visiting team for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Boston's Fenway Park against the Bruins on New Year's Day.

The good news is the visitors have won each of the last two Winter Classics. Even the Montreal Canadiens were victorious against the host Edmonton Oilers in the 2003 Heritage Classic at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium -- the first regular-season outdoor game in NHL history.

The bad news is that the winners of the most recent two outdoor extravaganzas -- Pittsburgh in 2008 and Detroit in 2009 -- have gone on to lose in the Stanley Cup Final.

So pick your poison, Flyers fans.

"Some might say the trend has to continue but others will probably say the home team is due, so I don't know," goaltender Brian Boucher told NHL.com during a news conference Wednesday.

"Maybe there's a lot of pressure on the home team to make a good show, but at the end of the day it's still another game on the schedule and each team tries to prepare the same way," Boucher said. "Someti mes on the road it can be easier to prepare for a game because you don't have to deal with the distractions."

But since the event is the Winter Classic, there will be far more media coverage than any other regular-season game.

"I'm sure it's going to be quite a media zoo and guys are going to want their families to check this out," he said. "It'll be a good test for both sides, but hopefully the visiting team can stay strong this year."

Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn feels it's just a coincidence the visiting team has won each of the three outdoor games.

"If the Winter Classic had been going on the last 12 years and the visitors had won every game, then that would probably jump out at you," Coburn told NHL.com. "I think we've been lucky enough to have a good team on the ice the last couple of years, and I think that had a little bit to do with who they choose for the game. No matter what has happened in the past, our goal is to ultimately get to the Stanley Cup Final and win."

Boston defenseman Aaron Ward, who played an outdoor game with teammate Marco Sturm during the 2004-05 season in Germany, feels the Flyers are the perfect opponent.

"We've had some physical encounters with them and it's a great choice in team," Ward said. "They have a great fan bas e in Philadelphia -- all you need to do is enter that city as an opponent to realize that. They know hockey, they know their opponents and they'll let you hear about it. Hopefully that brings an element of excitement to this game because you want to embrace the opponent, too."

Ward isn't too concerned about the home team's history in previous Winter Classics.

"You can't put too much bearing on that -- you just go out and play the game," he said. "It's two points, but also it's important that all the players focus and prepare properly for the game. You want to enjoy the experience, but when the puck drops, you have to play the game."

Boston Vice President Cam Neely knows both teams will be rarin’ to go once the puck is dropped.

"These teams do have a lot of tradition," Neely said. "They're certainly usually spirited battles and I can't see why this wouldn't be spirited, as well. It's going to be a great hockey game, but two points are still up for grabs, so the players will want to put on a good show and want to work hard."

When told of visiting teams going 3-for-3 in outdoor games in years past, Neely smiled.

"We're certainly going to give it an effort to end that trend, that's for sure," he said. "I think it's due for the trend to be broken. So we'll hopefully try and use that to our advantage."

For Coburn, i t'll be the first outdoor contest he's participated in since his days growing up in Saskatchewan.

"This is the first official game for me. But where I grew up, the rink was just down the street from me and right behind the indoor rink was the outdoor rink," Coburn said. "We had an outdoor rink using (hay) bales as boards all the way around the rink. Sometimes if you shot too hard, it would go right into the bale and you'd be sitting there shuffling through straw and hay trying to get your puck out of the boards. I think with something like this, with the scenery and everything else that goes into it, it'll be amazing."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com