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NHL.com staff Heritage Classic predictions

By NHL.com Staff

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NHL.com staff Heritage Classic predictions
Bob Condor

Who wins -- Going with the hot team here, Calgary. The Flames will get a lift from its home-stadium fans and veteran goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who has hinted his top-of-the-net water bottle might contain hot cocoa.

MVP -- Like the blue-chipper he is, Calgary's Jarome Iginla is trending upward. He has three goals and three assists in the last five games, and look for a clutch from him today.

Surprise star -- On the Montreal side, PK Subban will be stellar, which might not be all that surprising. Subban will be inspired by former Montreal GM Bob Gainey's praise of the young D-man during Heritage festivities here in Calgary. But the biggest surprise will be the Flames' Tom Kostopoulos, who will score his seventh goal of the season and his second in two games.

Best moment -- The eruption when Iginla scores.

Color commentary -- The Flames performed their pre-game soccer warmup outdoors in relatively light attire. That mindset will carry the day and evening here at McMahon Stadium.

Dave Lozo

Who wins -- Visiting teams have won 4 of 5 outdoor games, including the Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic against the Edmonton Oilers. But the combination of the Flames' red-hot play of late the Canadiens' recent struggles is a recipe for a home team victory. Look for Canadiens goaltender Carey Price to play well, but the Flames will emerge with a 4-2 win.

MVP -- The line of Curtis Glencross, Olli Jokinen and David Moss has 27 points in the Flames' last six games. They'll keep up their outstanding play against the Canadiens, and look for Jokinen to pick up first star honors at McMahon Stadium.

Surprise star -- Defenseman Cory Sarich has just 18 goals in 803 career games and he scored his third goal of the season Wednesday. So the odds don't favor him scoring for a second game in a row, but look for him to give up the body and earn a few key shot blocks in the frigid temperatures. Those blocks could be the difference between winning and losing.

Best moment -- I predicted someone would get a penalty shot at the Winter Classic and whiffed, so I'm doubling my bet and going for it again. It will be Tomas Plekanec who gets it for the Canadiens, and he'll score against goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Color commentary -- There's nothing quite like an NHL game contested by two Canadian teams in front of 20,000 fans. But taking it outside and doubling the crowd is going to make it an unimaginably passionate atmosphere. Throw in the fact that both of these teams are fighting for playoff spots, and it should be a special game.

Brian Hunter

Who wins -- The Montreal Canadiens won the original Heritage Classic over seven years ago, and this is a franchise that revels in playing on big stages such as today's and performing well in them. Expect both teams to play a tight-checking, defensive style, but the Canadiens pull out a 2-1 overtime win over the hometown Flames.

MVP -- He went from sitting on the bench and possibly being ridden out of town to regaining his starting job, playing in the All-Star Game and leading the NHL in games and minutes played -- the amazing turnaround season for Montreal goalie Carey Price continues in the Heritage as he shuts down the Flames' red-hot attack.

Surprise star -- Montreal coach Jacques Martin said Saturday there was "a good possibility" defenseman James Wisniewski would play Sunday despite taking a puck to the face Thursday against Edmonton. Assuming he's out there, look for Wisniewski to log major minutes on the blue line and contribute a key assist on a Canadiens power play.

Best moment -- Mike Cammalleri missed the last 12 games with a shoulder injury but returns just in time to play outdoors for the first time since his Michigan days. He nets the decisive goal against the team he scored 39 goals for two seasons ago.

Color commentary -- Everyone comes out of the Heritage Classic a winner -- even though the Flames only get one point, that actually jumps them all the way from 10th to sixth place in the Western Conference. And the fans who brave the cold get to see the type of game they'll be telling family and friends about for decades to come.

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres