CHICAGO -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter had the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field circled on his calendar for some time.
Sutter spent seven years in the Windy City when his father Brent Sutter played for the Blackhawks in the 1990s.
Center - PIT
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 21
SOG: 98 | +/-: 3
"I went to one Bears game and it was my first football game; I didn't think too much of it at the time but now looking back, it has changed so much," Brandon Sutter
said Friday. "I had some great times in Chicago. I remember my dad playing and seeing the transition of the downtown area. We lived in the suburbs. I know my mom is very excited to be back, and it's great to see some old friends I haven't seen in a while."
Sutter, who turned 25 on Valentine's Day, was asked if he remembered Chicago Stadium, where the Blackhawks played their home games prior to United Center.
"Yeah, I remember I had to put cotton balls in my ears for the national anthem all the time," he said with a smile.
The Penguins were on the ice Friday for an outdoor practice in preparation for the game Saturday against the Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; NBC). To Sutter's delight, the weatherman is predicting snow.
"If it wasn't snowing or freezing, it just wouldn't be the same," he said.
The outdoor game will be the third for the Penguins, who defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, in the 2008 NHL Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and lost to the Washington Capitals, 3-1, in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
"I think sometimes the elements are always a little bit different, but you can probably over-coach this game, and that's something I think I'll remember from the last one," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "You're dealing with elements, you're dealing with different ice conditions, you're dealing with snow. We had rain last time and there was a lot of water on the ice, so to over-coach, I think it would be a mistake."
The Penguins are 11-3-3 in their past 17 games dating to Jan. 3 but have lost two straight via shootout. Pittsburgh hasn't lost three in a row since Nov. 6-13. The Penguins are 3-0-2 against the Blackhawks since Feb. 14, 2007.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the expected starter Saturday, needed two stitches to repair a gash he sustained above his left eyebrow in the locker room. Fleury said the accident occurred when the helmet he placed on the shelf above his stall came toppling onto his head.
Fleury, who wore a GoPro helmet camera during practice, is 31-13-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .920 save percentage this season.
"The camera felt a little weird at first; I felt a little off-balance," Fleury said. "The guys were trying to shoot it off my helmet and missed every time. They were all talk, no action."
Penguins third-line wing Chuck Kobasew will reach 600 NHL games Saturday.
"You look at who we're playing … a great team in the Western Conference, so it's going to be a good measuring stick for us," he said. "We weren't happy to give up five goals [in a 6-5 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday]. Our power-play was good, but [the] penalty kill wasn't when we needed it to be. We take pride in that, so we have to clean up our game."
Sidney Crosby, who leads the League with 51 assists and 80 points, is gearing up to face the defending Stanley Cup champion.
"It's going to be two pretty fast, skilled hockey teams out there, and if the ice agrees with everyone, that would be a night for a pretty good product out there in Soldier Field," Crosby said. "It was good to get out there and be the first players to test out the ice. It was great. The depth perception is kind of different and the rink feels small in the middle of a football stadium, so it was good to get out there and get a feel for that."
Brian Gibbons, who was promoted to the top line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz, played in two outdoor games prior to joining the Penguins as an undrafted free agent in 2011. One was for their American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, against the Hershey Bears at Hersheypark Stadium on Jan. 20, 2013, and one for Boston College against Boston University in a Hockey East game at Fenway Park on Jan. 8, 2010.
"That one in Fenway was something special since I'm from the area," Gibbons said. "I think right when you get out there the rink always seemed a little smaller to me. But during the game I don't ever remembering it being a problem, I just focused on the game."