MONTREAL - With two Winter Classic appearances under his belt, Karl Alzner is no stranger to patrolling the blue line outdoors.
While still a member of the Washington Capitals, the 29-year-old defenseman battled the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in 2011, before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park in 2015.
In both cases, Alzner's squad came out on top, so he certainly knows a thing or two about what it takes to be successful outside.
"It's not typically a fast-paced, exciting plays type of game. It's simple, straight-line hockey. I don't think I made more than five direct passes in those two outdoor games," said Alzner, on key lessons learned heading into Saturday night's 2017 Scotiabank NHL100 Classic against the Ottawa Senators at Lansdowne Park. "I've always just focused on getting the puck going and letting the forwards take it up."
In other words, the 10-year NHL veteran plans on being as fundamentally sound as possible in the third of four regular-season matchups between the two Atlantic Division rivals so far this year.
Experience has taught the Burnaby, BC native that it's the best way to go about his business when weather conditions - and ice conditions alike - are simply beyond your control.
"I remember the first one in Pittsburgh. It rained. Everyone knows what water on the ice is like. Pucks were stopping all over the place," recalled Alzner, who logged 24:25 of ice time in a 3-1 victory at the home of NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. "In Washington, though, it was so sunny that I could barely see a thing out there. It was warm, so temperature wasn't an issue, but no one could really see anything in the first period because of the glare off the ice."
Based on the current forecast for the Ottawa area, Alzner is likely in for the first cold outdoor game of his career, which suits him just fine. In fact, it should make the experience even more memorable.
"If it's cold and snowy, I think it'll be in the top five moments of my NHL career. I love watching football players go out there when it's -20 and freezing at Lambeau Field," said Alzner. "Maybe you get a little bit of separation between some guys and other guys that don't like cold. You get to see how that plays into it. It'll be right at the top for me because I love being outdoors."
If Alzner does get his wish weather-wise, he doesn't plan on dressing for the occasion, so to speak.
"We've always been prepared for cold weather and had the extra stuff to keep us warm, but I'm a less-is-more guy," cracked Alzner, who clearly doesn't intend to fight off any potential wind chill on Saturday night with some additional clothing. "I try to wear as little amount of equipment and under-gear as possible and be as natural as possible. I don't want to wear anything extra."
This, of course, will mark Alzner's first outdoor event on Canadian soil. His mother, Karen, and billet mother from his playing days with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, Jackie Drake, will both be in attendance to cheer him on.
Needless to say, he plans on enjoying every second of it.
"Pittsburgh is big on hockey and Washington's getting better, but it's going to be a little bit cooler playing outside in Ottawa, in Canada. That's what really excites me, being able to take it back to the roots. It's going to be fun," concluded Alzner. "It's one of those things that we'll get to talk about for a long time. That's what I've noticed in the past. You bring up those memories quite a bit and chat about it."