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Flyers wrap up final indoor practice before Classic

by Adam Kimelman /
VOORHEES, N.J. -- When the Philadelphia Flyers were returning home from Pittsburgh late Thursday night, their flight path took them near Citizens Bank Park. Defenseman Matt Carle snapped a photo from the plane window and posted it to his Twitter account, but he admitted it didn't show much of the grandeur of the park, which will play host on Monday to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

"We didn't get to fly directly overhead and see the ice," Carle told, "but you could see the place lit up pretty good. I'm sure those guys are working on the ice when we were flying in that night."

Carle and the rest of his teammates will get to see the result of two weeks of hard work by NHL Senior Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his crew Sunday, when they get to skate on the Winter Classic ice for the first time during the team's practice session.

"I've been watching a little bit on the NHL Network and seeing views of the locker room and kind of know what the ice is going to look like," said Carle. "It's pretty cool to see, but it's nothing like seeing it first-hand and getting out on the ice and getting a feel for what it's going to be like out there."


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That level of anticipation was a common feeling in the Philadelphia locker room after Saturday's practice, their final one indoors before skating outside at the ballpark-turned-hockey-oasis Sunday afternoon.

"It's going to be pretty cool," said Scott Hartnell. "I love going there in the summertime and watching a ballgame be played there. For us to play a hockey game is going to be pretty cool."

"It'll be good to get in there tomorrow," added coach Peter Laviolette. "Am I excited? Is everybody excited? I don't know how you can't be excited about a game like this."

A large number of the players on the current team took part in the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston, so they'll be counted on to provide some guidance to the Winter Classic newbies.

"I think that process is going to start tomorrow a little bit more when we get there," said Danny Briere, one of seven current Flyers to play outside at Fenway Park. "That's why it's good to get in the day before, have a practice there, so everybody can see what we're facing. I'm not the only one. There's quite a few of us that played in a Winter Classic before. We have enough guys to help out the younger guys."

One of them is Wayne Simmonds, who said he knows the most important thing when he skates out in front of 47,000-plus fans is to keep his emotions in check.

"It's more of something not a lot of us have seen, beside the guys who played in the Winter Classic in Boston," he said. "It's something you have to try not to focus on. Just come out and play a strong game and just try to leave the other stuff in the back of your mind."

Helping in that is the importance of the game in the standings. The Rangers enter the game atop the Eastern Conference standings with 50 points, just two ahead of the Flyers. Add in the fact that the Rangers have beaten the Flyers in two previous meetings this season, and there's a lot more to this game than a unique venue and a big crowd.

"It's a huge two points," said Carle. "They've had our number this year and we need to respond. And as much as we want to focus on the spectacle of the game, and a lot of people do, it's a huge two points on the line and I know it's only January, but these two points could mean something come early April. I think both teams are approaching it like that. Everybody wants to win this game, so it'll be an intense battle."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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