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Rain, rain come our way!

by Dan Rosen

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Rain may be an annoyance to most people, but Dan Craig and his staff welcomed the wet weather Mother Nature brought to the Buffalo region Thursday.

Water is, by nature, wet whether it comes from a hose or from the sky.

”We called it God helping us make ice today because as quick as it was falling we were freezing it,” Craig said during his media briefing Thursday afternoon. “We have to build an inch of ice before we can paint the ice, and it doesn’t matter to me how I get that water down. Either the Good Lord helps us or I put it down by hand.”

Craig was quite happy to report that he and his staff were right on schedule in preparation for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic game between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins on New Years Day (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio).

The sand-based playing surface was flooded Thursday. It will freeze solid overnight and should be ready to be painted early Friday morning. By Craig’s next scheduled media briefing – 2 p.m. Friday – the surface should look like hockey ice.

“The surface right now is at 20 degrees and we’ll drop it another two degrees (late Thursday afternoon), and Mother Nature will help us take over a little bit later,” Craig said. “By this time tomorrow we should be looking out there not only at white ice, but we should also have a center ice logo in place. That’s our target for tomorrow. As we see it right now we’re moving along very smoothly.

“Once we put our white down it’s going to look like a normal hockey rink down there.”

Craig, in fact, was so content with how the project was proceeding that he even joked that by Thursday night he could lace up his own skates for a quick twirl.

“It wouldn’t be a heavy skate, but I could probably put them on and go,” he said.

The small auxiliary rink, which is being built in the east end zone, also should have white ice by Friday afternoon. It was green Thursday because of the anti-freeze going through it that Craig said “takes the refrigerant down and cools the floor.”

The auxiliary rink will be used for pre-game and between-period entertainment.

The weather report for Friday begins with temperatures right around freezing in the morning and gradually getting to about 36 degrees Fahrenheit by midday, when some precipitation is expected.

Or, for Craig’s purposes, the weather report is for ideal conditions.

“When the rain hit us we were at the point where we were saturating the sand, which was ideal for me,” Craig said. “It was like, ‘Go ahead and rain.’ The chillers were sitting on a cruise mode waiting for the sand to get saturated so it can freeze solid.”

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