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NHL Stadium Series

Flyers ready to play outdoors again

Recall 'incredible' 2012 Winter Classic, look forward to Stadium Series against Penguins

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Five years later, the memory remains stunning for the six current Philadelphia Flyers who played in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Walking out of the dugout for the first time on game day and seeing 46,967 fans packed into the ballpark was more than they anticipated.

"It's pretty incredible," said center Sean Couturier, a rookie that season. "You don't realize how big it is until you're out there."

The excitement of that experience is one they hope to repeat when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV).

The buildup to the Stadium Series isn't as big as it was for the 2012 Winter Classic. The teams were followed by TV cameras for a month leading up to that game for an HBO series.

"You can see the hype around just one game," Couturier said. "It's just another game when you're out there, but how big it was, how big a stage it was, especially against the Rangers, big rivalry. It made it an incredible experience I'll remember forever."

Video: 2017 Stadium Series Heinz Field Time-lapse

Forward Wayne Simmonds said his favorite memory was having friends and relatives attend the family skate after practice the day before the game.

Forward Jakub Voracek said he felt something was different the first time he tried skating with the puck.

"I remember I was carrying the puck through the neutral zone and the wind started going and it was taking my stick back, and I thought 'Whoa, that's a little different,'" he said.

Brayden Schenn's lasting memory occurred at 12:26 of the second period when he scored his first NHL goal, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead in a game they lost 3-2.

"It was a faceoff play," the forward said. "[Defenseman] Matt Carle held the puck in, shot it far pad on [Rangers goaltender Henrik] Lundqvist and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Obviously a special moment for me."

Going into their next outdoor game, the Flyers who played in 2012 (also including center Claude Giroux and forward Matt Read) are very much looking forward to what they expect to be a fun event in Pittsburgh. Especially with the game being played at night.

"That might be different," Couturier said. "First time experiencing that, under the spotlights and everything."

The big focus for the Flyers, however, will be trying to get two points as they continue to battle for one of the wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"Once you get out there it's another game, other than a lot of hype, a lot of media attention, a lot of distractions away from the rink," Couturier said. "But once you get out there it's just another game and there's two points on the line for both teams. For us it's definitely going to be a huge game with the standings, how tight it is. We're definitely looking forward to it."

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