With less than 24 hours before the NHL Winter Classic 2009, the Hawks got their first chance to skate on the Wrigley rink this morning. The results were unanimous: no two players had the same impression of the playing surface or agreed on just how much the elements will affect game play.
“The ice wasn’t very good today - it was pretty choppy and there were some big chunks missing,” said winger Adam Burish, who played an outdoor game at Lambeau Field in college. "But I told the guys when I was in Green Bay, we had to put pylons down around the chunks and skate around them.”
Brian Campbell, who played in the Winter Classic last season, says that he saw improvements in the rink's condition in the day between the practice day and the game last season and expects to see the same improvement tomorrow.
"Let's give the ice a day," he said. "It's tough to tell the condition because it's the first time people have skated on it. I expect they'll work on it a lot and it will be improved tomorrow."
Whatever condition the ice was in today or will be in tomorrow, the Hawks know that they’re going to have to alter their game to their surroundings.
“You’ve got to leave skills at home and keep it simple – don’t deke or use your hands too much,” said Patrick Sharp. “Just keep things nice and easy and you’ll have a chance.”
Among the factors in the outdoor game is the role that the sun plays in the players' ability to see the puck. Last year’s contest in Buffalo was played under heavy cloud cover, but some weather predictions say the sun will be shining at Wrigley.
“You can’t always see the puck in the sun,” said Kris Versteeg “When it gets bright out there, you won't see it as well as you normally would during a game.”
“The goalies are going to have to get accustomed to finding the puck,” Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “[Detroit] has people who go to the net very well and seeing the puck in sunlight may be a bit more challenging. I think the goalie who is out of the sun will be more efficient.”
Whatever the conditions may be, the Hawks know that this is still an important game against a divisional opponent and getting the two points won’t come easily.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’re all going to be on the same ice,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook. “We’ll just go out there, play hard and make the best of it.”
Kane to play tomorrow
After leaving Tuesday’s game with a leg injury following a tough hit, Patrick Kane sat out most of practice today but both he and Quenneville say he will be in the lineup tomorrow.
“I’m going to do my best to treat it as much as I can today,” Kane said. “When my skate got caught in the ice, it was an unfortunate play but it was a clean hit. There was nothing you could do about it. But at the same time, just trying to get myself ready for tomorrow’s game is the most important thing.”