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Winter Classic rink on schedule as snow, ice loom

NHL.com @NHL

FOXBORO -- The NHL remains on schedule in building out the rink for the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1. The weather, however, could make things a bit interesting across the next 36 hours.

The Boston Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens in the annual New Year's Day affair (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We're in pretty good shape today," Don Renzulli, the NHL's executive vice president of events, said during a Monday update at the stadium. "Obviously just trying to beat the weather that's coming in [Monday night], but as you can see we got white paint down on the rink [Sunday] night. We're putting in the lines [Monday] and we're going to work on logos late [Monday] afternoon."

The weather remains a wild card in the rink-build schedule devised by Renzulli and Dan Craig, senior director of facility operations and hockey operations. Craig is in charge of the rink build and ice-making process.

"I know there's a big front north of us, so if it comes down we may get more, so we'll just deal with it as it comes," Renzulli said. "But I think it's supposed to warm up and turn to rain later on."

Forecasts call for a wintry mix expected to move in Monday night and deposit up to three inches of snow and ice overnight. Temperatures are supposed to dip into the mid-20s and winds are expected to gust up to 20 mph. The wintry mix is expected to continue into Tuesday morning before shifting to a rain event.

Fortunately, Craig and his crew of eight ice makers have been through a variety of weather events in making ice at past Winter Classics and other outdoor games. The first official events will take place Wednesday when the Bruins host a family event a day before each team has its only practice session on the surface.

"We're just getting ready for the weather, trying to lock up a lot of the stuff down on the field, because we know [Tuesday] is going to be a little bit messy in the morning," Renzulli said. "But once we get through that we're going to really start to get down on the field and start to get the décor around the rink. We'll see if Mother Nature stays with the real snow or if we have to put down some Hollywood snow. But either way the field will be all white once we get there and we're in pretty good shape."

Rain has been a constant nuisance since the NHL took over the facility after the New England Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans eight days ago. Plus, temperatures have been well above average throughout the week, including a flirtation with the high-60s on Christmas Eve.

"We had so much rain we couldn't keep up with it, it was so warm," Renzulli said. "But we caught up with it because we were working overnight shifts and they're in good shape right now."

The long-range forecast for the festivities on Dec. 31, which include the recently announced Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank and the 2016 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game at Gillette Stadium, call for partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the high-40s. For the Winter Classic, a mostly sunny day with temperatures in the low-40s is expected.

"I think we're fine. We meet every morning at 7 with our staff to run through the day, nobody has any real concerns right now," Renzulli said. "Like I said, the weather is really the only thing that can throw a wrench into it at this point. If we get more snow than we're anticipating we'll deal with that and have to clean this place out."

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