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Winter Classic rink progressing in spite of elements

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- A damp and frigid day in Washington did not delay the progress being made on the rink for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, to be played between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals at Nationals Park on New Year's Day (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA).

"Right now we're in good shape," NHL senior director of facilities operation Dan Craig said. "We're not quite at half an inch [of ice], very close to half an inch right now."

Over the weekend, installation of the boards and aluminum trays that regulate the temperature of the ice surface were completed. The crew began spraying water on the playing surface to create the ice, which will ultimately be about two inches thick.

Elsewhere around the ballpark, some décor elements had already been installed, such as detailing on both dugouts and a large banner featuring the NHL Winter Classic logo in left field.

The Feature Rink also remains under construction. Located in center field, the surface has been expanded by 12 to 15 panels compared to auxiliary rinks at previous NHL Winter Classics, according to Craig.

The Blackhawks and Capitals will initially enter the rink on New Year's Day via the Feature Rink, which local youth hockey players will skate on during the game.

Weather in Washington will fluctuate over the next 10 days; temperatures range from the low 40s to mid-60s with a mixture of sun and rain. The potential for snow exists on Dec. 31, when the Blackhawks and Capitals will practice at Nationals Park.

"I'm always picky," Craig said. "I want an overcast day at about 26 degrees and few little snowflakes flying around and we'll be in great shape.

"Mother Nature has cooperated a little bit. She's dumped a lot of snow on us, made us really cold, had a lot of rain. The people that live in this area definitely know the region. I'm hoping we don't have a day like today because it becomes a little bone-chilling with the rain, but on the ice-surface side, we're going to be good."

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