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2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Capitals v. Penguins

Injuries won't keep Perreault out of Classic

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH – Five days ago Mathieu Perreault was on the wrong end of a collision at RBC Center -- and almost immediately his thoughts drifted toward the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He was gripped with fear.

Perreault, who ended up with a broken nose and a concussion, missed the Washington Capitals' game on Tuesday. But the rookie center – distorted face and all – was able to skate with his team Friday at Heinz Field and will be in the lineup Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC.

"Yeah, right away – pretty much my first thought was, 'Oh God, I'm not be able to play in the Winter Classic,'" Perreault said. "It turned out it was more my nose than my head, so it was fine. The concussion sometimes you never know but my head feels fine."

Penguins eye ultimate Winter Classic prize: two points

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- It could be pretty easy for the Pittsburgh Penguins to lose sight of the fact they have to play a meaningful hockey game against the Washington Capitals on New Year's Day.

There are enough distractions leading up to the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to knock the most focused of professional athletes off their games. Consider all that happened at Heinz Field on Friday that resembles nothing of your usual day before a regular-season game:

After the players took to a sheet of ice on a football field while wearing their Winter Classic jerseys, forward Pascal Dupuis donned a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet for a portion of a practice held in front of several thousand fans.

Before the practice, an alumni game between the Caps and Pens that featured legend Mario Lemieux took place in front of 10,000 fans.

Crosby turns coach for hometown midget team

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- As one of the high-profile superstars of the NHL, Sidney Crosby has plenty of responsibilities during the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Coaching would seemingly not rank high on that list.

However, No. 87 was behind the bench to help coach the midget team from Cole Harbour, N.S., during the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite Winter Classic Tournament on the auxiliary rink adjacent to Heinz Field.

To make it even better, Cole Harbour was playing HC Metallurg, a youth team from Magnitogorsk, the hometown of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Caps' Green makes family skate memorable

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Having a chance to skate on the ice at Heinz Field made for a pretty memorable Friday afternoon for members of the Washington Capitals, but there's no question Mike Green is going to remember it for the rest of his life.

Green has done a lot of mesmerizing things on the ice as a star defenseman, but he added something pretty unique on this day – he helped a friend orchestrate a marriage proposal.

League changes Winter Classic start time to 8 ET

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH – With rain expected to soak Pittsburgh throughout Saturday afternoon, the NHL announced the start time for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic has been moved to 8 p.m. ET (NBC, CBC).

Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, who consults with the NHL on weather for the Winter Classic, confirmed there will be a steady rain in the afternoon. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had the final say on the start time and V.P. of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell notified the general managers of both Pittsburgh and Washington.

CBC will still have coverage of the game except for affiliates in Toronto and Ottawa, where it will broadcast the Hockey Night in Canada game between the Maple Leafs and Senators.

Crosby talks Pens-Caps rivalry, Classic, weather

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Just like he does at Consol Energy Center, Sidney Crosby sat at the chair in front of his locker stall with media surrounding him Friday after practice.

Only, this was so completely different.

For one, Crosby was at Heinz Field, not Consol Energy Center.

He was wearing a toque, not a baseball cap.

There is so much media here that he had to do two waves of interviews, first for the television cameras and next for the print media.

Pens list Staal as game-time decision for Classic

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Injured Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal skated Friday afternoon at Heinz Field as the Penguins prepared for their starring role in Saturday's 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said after the loose and mostly unstructured practice at Heinz Field that Staal would be a game-time decision for the Winter Classic, suggesting Staal may well make his season debut in the biggest regular-season game of the season -- against the rival Washington Capitals, no less.

Staal, 22, has yet to play this season because of off-season foot surgery and a broken hand.

Bylsma dis say, however, that the weather and other game conditions could impact the decision on whether or not Staal makes his debut, a position slightly different from the stance the coach took on Tuesday when Staal took part in his first full practice.

A look at some Classic numbers

John Kreiser - Columnist

As the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic enters its fourth year, the annual Jan. 1 game has become the most eagerly awaited non-Stanley Cup Playoff contest. Saturday's meeting between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals even has been the subject of its own HBO documentary series and will draw more than 65,000 fans to Heinz Field.

The first three games have lived up to the "Classic" moniker. Here's a look at some of the numbers from those games, as well as a few connected to the 2011 Classic.

Caps-Pens: A not-so-civil war

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Just as we've seen him in front of the HBO cameras, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau pulled no punches Thursday night when he was asked about the Penguins-Capitals rivalry that will add a new and intriguing chapter Saturday in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

"They don't like us, so why should we like them," Boudreau told "Wasn't it (Max) Talbot who said over the summer that he didn't like (Alex) Ovechkin? Well, so why can't we say we don't like Talbot? I didn't like him when he was in Wilkes-Barre, and I don't like him in Pittsburgh. Anybody that can beat us we don't like."

Boudreau said the rivalry between the Winter Classic opponents has to "stay above-board" because it takes place in the NHL, not a minor league somewhere. But that doesn't mean it always has to stay civil.

Bylsma finally gets to savor Classic build-up

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is finally letting himself drink in some of the buzz surrounding the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Three games in four nights following Christmas kept Bylsma fairly busy, but the Penguins' next game is the Winter Classic against the Capitals. So from now until the puck drops Saturday -- and even during that game -- he can soak in the atmosphere that has turned Pittsburgh into hockey's capital city this week.

"The number of people that have entered into our lives in the last day is just amazing," Bylsma said Thursday while watching the AHL game at between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears, Washington's top farm team, at the Consol Energy Center. "It's got a different feel right now than it certainly did before the (Christmas) break. (Friday) it'll go to even another level going to Heinz Field and out on the ice. The trainers are ecstatic right now by the way it looks over there, so we're excited to get over there."
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