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NHL Stadium Series

Kopitar hoping for wintry feeling with Kings at NHL Stadium Series

Wants 'some snowflakes' against Avalanche in Colorado after playing outdoors in California

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Anze Kopitar has played in two NHL outdoor games for the Los Angeles Kings, but each was in California, in spring-like weather.

He's hoping for something different when the Kings play the Colorado Avalanche in the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game at Falcon Stadium at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2).

"To be completely honest with you, I'm hoping that there's going to be some snowflakes," Kopitar said. "Just something that's kind of picturesque like that.

"I mean, a few of us have been fortunate enough to play in a couple outdoor games already, but at the same time we played the outdoor games in California, in warm weather."

 

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The Kings lost 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2014 NHL Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in the 2015 NHL Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

"In Dodger Stadium I remember skating during warmups and looking over and noticing there was a beach volleyball court," Kopitar said. "I mean, it was obviously a great game to be a part of, but I'm just hoping this time around there's going to be a little bit more of a winter spirit.

"I say that now, but if it's very cold I'm probably going to regret it. I don't think it's a very big secret that I've softened up being in California over the course of my 14 years in the league. So maybe I don't want it too cold, but just a little on the chilly side of things."

The Kings captain remembers skating for hours on outdoor rinks while growing up in Jesenice, Slovenia, before playing youth hockey for the town's club team.

"It was really cold and snowing back home," Kopitar said. "You'd literally have to play for 10 minutes and then shovel snow ... play for 10 and shovel. I obviously have great memories of those times."

The game at Falcon Stadium will be the second NHL outdoor game at a U.S. Service Academy following the 2018 NHL Stadium Series game between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

"I think playing the game here only magnifies it for sure," Kopitar said. "Being at the Air Force Academy and honoring all that is there."

Video: 2020 Stadium Series at Falcon Stadium time-lapse

Kopitar leads the Kings with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 57 games, but Los Angeles (19-33-5) is last in the Western Conference with 43 points and will likely miss qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons.

Kopitar realizes that but said the outdoor experience could provide a boost for the Kings for the remainder of the regular season.

"We're far from a playoff spot and it's highly unlikely we're going to make the playoffs, but we're trying to build a team, trying to build the game and taking steps in the right direction," Kopitar said. "Something like this could definitely be coming at the right time because you're looking forward to it. It could be a reset because it isn't something you get to do every day so it's going to be good for us."

Kopitar said it's important for those new to the outdoor game to enjoy the experience but also remember it's a big game, especially for the Avalanche (32-16-6), who are second in the Central Division with 70 points.

There's also a little pride at stake.

"We all know it's a game and there's two points on the line, but you need to take in the whole experience ... the family skate the day before the game is special," Kopitar said. "My advice to anyone new to the experience is to just embrace it."

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