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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Close, but no Classic for recently demoted Pens, Caps

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The special Winter Classic uniform looked good on him and the brand new equipment felt just right, but Andrew Gordon has no idea where all of that is right now and he pretty much assumes he'll never see it again.

Gordon played eight games for the Washington Capitals this month and had his first career NHL goal "immortalized on HBO," he told NHL.com. But unless something crazy happens between now and Saturday he'll be in Hershey, Pa. when the main event, the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Caps and Pittsburgh Penguins, is taking place at Heinz Field.

The Capitals sent Gordon and Keith Aucoin down to the Hershey Bears of the AHL on Wednesday. Similarly, after playing three games and recording two points with the Penguins, Dustin Jeffrey was shipped to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this past Sunday. Goaltender John Curry joined him a few days later.

All four are still holding out hope that maybe, just maybe they'll get that call to come back and join the NHL clubs on Saturday, but it seems like a farfetched dream right now.

They got to take part in the Winter Classic carnival that's going on in this city this week by playing for the AHL Penguins in their game at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night, but the brand new arena in downtown seems so far away from the gridiron turned rink on Pittsburgh's north shore.

"Obviously you can say we're so close, but I have said it all along that if I was an injured player I would be getting back for this game," Gordon told NHL.com. "It would take an awful bad case of the flu or an awful bad stroke of luck in the morning skate for me to not play in that game, so I am sure the boys are pretty much the same way."

Jeffrey and Gordon at least got a taste of the Winter Classic hype and buzz with short-lived starring roles in the HBO series that's documenting the Penguins and Capitals leading up to Saturday's game.

Gordon, of course, had his first career NHL goal featured in the series. He might find his way into episode four as well considering he was mic'd for the AHL game Thursday. Gordon was leading the Bears with 16 goals and 31 points entering the game.

You may remember Jeffrey as the guy in the middle of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and GM Ray Shero during an awkward meeting following a game against the Rangers on Dec. 15. Bylsma and Shero were shown telling Jeffrey that he was being sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"Well, it wasn't as awkward as getting sent down," Jeffrey said of watching himself getting sent down on HBO.

He was called up on Dec. 23 and skated in warm-ups in Washington prior to the Winter Classic tune-up between the Pens and Caps, but got sent right back down three days later. Jeffrey had a team-high 33 points for the Baby Pens.

"I got called up and sent down in three episodes," he joked. "I don't know if it was good or bad if I made that much face time on that show."

Aucoin got called up in time to make his season debut for the Capitals on Tuesday against Montreal because Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson were unavailable. He admitted the Winter Classic was the first thought that crossed his mind when he got the call from GM George McPhee, but he was sent down on Wednesday.

"When you get called up that close to something like that you're hoping to be there," Aucoin, who entered Thursday with 24 points in 15 games this season with the Bears, told NHL.com. "I was hoping to be there all week to at least be a part of it and there is still a little chance that if someone can't go, I get called up. Hopefully I'll play good tonight, turn some heads and maybe I'll get the chance anyways."

He knows it's a longshot, but why not at least hold out hope?

"I'm going to keep my phone on just in case," he said with a smile. "Maybe I'll have a message after the game."

Curry is pretty sure Shero won't be calling him. He was with the Penguins as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup for three games only because Brent Johnson had a minor groin injury and then the flu.

Johnson was back for Wednesday's game against the Islanders, so Curry was sent back to the AHL, where he is 11-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average this season.

He had a feeling that sticking it out until the Winter Classic wasn't really going to happen.

"It was in the back of my head for sure, but it never was that realistic with the injury Johnson had because it wasn't that serious," Curry told NHL.com. "He's a guy who has had a long career and probably deserves it a lot more than me, but that being said it would have been really cool and I'm pretty jealous of those guys.

"It would be pretty cool to not play in that game and just be on the bench to back up. It's a big spectacle. It's historic."

History will have to be made without these guys.

Yeah, it's a bummer.

"The first day I got there they told me to break in all my stuff, so we were that close," Gordon said. "It just didn't happen."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl