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Penguins Report: Winter Classic Game Day

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts…

  • Staal makes his season debut tonight in Winter Classic (11:19 AM).
  • Jordan Staal talks to the media (3:50 PM).
  • Pens lines (10:36 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the Classic and holidays (12:27 PM).
  • Players adjust to time change (12:23 PM).
  • Time change handled easily by Pens equipment staff (4:15 PM).
  • Pittsburghers know how to tailgate (6:15 PM).
  • Fleury, Crosby, Letang talk Classic (12:08 PM).
  • PensTV talks with Rupp and Cooke (3:55 PM).
  • Locker room pics (5:13 PM).
  • Set up in the press box (5:27 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:53 AM).
  • Caps pics (12:13 PM).
  • Trib Total Media’s Rob Rossi rings in the New Year (10:08 AM).
  • “Rain Man is back with Little Miss Sunshine Rihanna where you at?...” (9:50 AM).

That'll wrap it up for the Winter Classic game day blog. Gonna get some grub and get ready for the game. Little more than an hour away from puck drop. This has been six months in the making. The anticipation is almost over. This. Is. Gonna. Be. Awesome!

6:15 PM:
The fans are gearing up for the Winter Classic with some good ol' fashion tailgating

5:27 PM:
Made it to the stadium. Currently sitting in press box seat 66 (seriously, I am), chugged two three giant Red Bulls and I'm ready to rock this Classic.

Here's my view of the game from the press box

That's me in the green shirt, top right. Check out the guy in the front row falling asleep.

Lucky seat No. 66 reserved for!

5:13 PM:
Locker room is ready! (Getty photos)

4:15 PM:
The people most affected by the postponement of the Winter Classic to 8 p.m. were the Penguins and Capitals equipment team, which had to carry their team's bags from Heinz Field to CONSOL Energy Center, and now back to Heinz Field.

3:55 PM:
PensTV talks to Rupp and Cooke



3:50 PM:
Jordan Staal's media scrum today...

On if he is going to play tonight
Yeah, I am. I feel ready and I feel ready to go, which I think is the same thing. So it’s kind of funny how it falls (into place), me being ready for this game. It’s very exciting and I’m very happy to be back in the lineup.

On if it helped that the game got pushed back and he got another skate in this morning
Yeah, I think it did. I don’t think I really actually took any faceoffs, I snapped a couple today so it felt great. It’s just nice to get some video and stuff like that in, and feel more relaxed and prepared for the game. It definitely helped me a bit that it started at 8.

On if he’s going to start at center with Geno on his wing or start on the fourth line and work up
I’m not sure, you’re going to have to ask Coach. I talked to him a little bit about the way he’s going to use me, but it’s still his department and we’ll see what happens.

On if he plays with Geno, if it will be the same as four years ago when they played together more often or if the roles will be different:
Nothing’s really going to be the same, I haven’t played in eight months. But hopefully we still have that chemistry and play well together. But again, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen towards ice time and what’s going to happen tonight.

On if he made the final decision
It was everyone. I think through the doctors, me and the coaches and trainers and everything, I think everyone feels pretty comfortable with me getting out there and trying to get back into it. It’s definitely really exciting.

On if he would have played if it was just a normal game tonight or if he’s pushing it up because it’s the Winter Classic:
No, I feel good. There’s definitely no question that I’m able to play. So whether it was this game or the game before, everything was feeling good and I feel comfortable.

On how the whole process has been for him
It’s been a lot of ups and downs. About almost three times, I was ready to play and it got taken away from me. Now that it’s finally here, it doesn’t even really seem real yet. I know as soon as I get out on that ice and play a couple shifts, it’ll really sink in. It gives me chills now, and I’m really excited for it.

On if all of his strength is back:
Yeah. Everything feels good. My trainers did a great job getting me back and feeling good, so yeah, it’s good.

On if it’s ironic that he’s making his return to an outdoor rink as it’s where he learned to play the game:
Yeah, I’d say it’s a little ironic. Just out of all I’ve been through, for me to be ready and healthy for this game, it’s definitely an opportunity that I want to take. It’s very exciting and I’mvery happy to be here.

On if it takes him back at all:
There’s a little more pressure out there, skating in these games. But just the feel of it, being outside, I can definitely have those feelings back home of skating outdoors when you’re younger. It’s going to be very exciting and a lot of fun.

On if there’s another level this team can get to with him back in the lineup:
I hope so. Hopefully I can add something to the team and try to obviously improve it. It’s going to be very difficult for my first couple games, I haven’t played in a long time. But I feel like I’m ready to take that step and try to improve this team.

Unassisted goal: Michelle Crechiolo

12:27 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On how the players have handled the game being pushed back:
We’re not checking the weather forecast, the coaches. The players, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but we’re not talking about it. We are getting ready to play an 8 pm game tonight, and in some aspects, a later start lends to more normalcy. The guys will be getting their normal meal at home, and they’ll be getting their rest and coming to the rink at the normal time. We’ll be bussed over to Heinz Field to get our gear on and play the game. In some ways, the 8 pm start is a little more normal to the players’ normal routines on a home game, so we’re getting ready to play at 8 pm and we’re looking forward to it.

On his Winter Classic experience on Friday:
I would say that yesterday was unique in a way I’ve never experienced about a game coming up. Last night you go home, and it’s not something I was thinking a lot about at home. But yesterday – put aside playoffs, put aside my first playing game, my first coaching game, some of those firsts – this was a unique day unlike any other that was really enjoyable. I had a great day, from watching the alumni game to the experience on the field, the outdoors, the practice – it was like a day I’ve never had before. And I put it away when I went home, but I’m really looking forward to going to the rink tonight. The lights are going to be on, the atmosphere tonight at that rink.

On if the holiday is lost on the players because of the game schedule
New Year’s Eve is not a holiday that hockey players and hockey coaches get to celebrate very often. I was sleeping at 11:15 and probably would have been if it was the 2nd.

On how much of a distraction this whole experience is for the next game and the rest of the season:
We have a significant break right before our next game. So we’re going to have a day off and then get back to focusing on the rest of the season. This is just about the halfway point for us, and we would change modes a little bit anyway after the halfway point. Before yesterday, the few days before, the couple weeks before, there have been distractions and buildups to the Winter Classic, and has been something that is in the back of our minds. But after the game is over tonight, I think the guys will be ready to get on with the rest of the season and it won’t be much of a distraction.

Backdoor pass: Michelle Crechiolo

12:23 PM:
One major benefit to the Winter Classic time change is that it allowed the players to get into a normal game day routine with a morning skate and afternoon nap.

12:13 PM:
Caps pics from the second-ever Winter Classic morning skate. Looks like it's Varlamov in net for Washington.

The Great 8 (right)

12:08 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On what conditions would cause problems for goaltenders in the Winter Classic
I guess the rain and wind could be a little tricky. But I we’ll see.

On adjusting to the time change:
It’s alright. It’s pretty much what we do on game day – we come to the regular skate in the morning. So I think it should be fun for everyone.

On getting back into the routine:
It’s nice to come to the rink and do what we do usually.

On what’s changed for him in the past year
I don’t know. I’ve just had a little more wins lately. I haven’t changed my style at all.

On playing under the lights
It’s will be the first night game for the Winter Classic, so it will be pretty cool. I think it will be fun.

On if its frustrating not knowing for certain if they will play after not playing in the first Classic:
I’m excited about playing the game, but the weather is the weather. You can’t really do anything about it. You just have to wait and see.

Sidney Crosby

On having a morning skate:
I don’t think it’s a big issue. It’s a little tough for the trainers. They’re the ones that are lugging that stuff back and forth. But I think other than that, we’re going through a pretty typical routine here. I think it’s a pretty good thing. It will be a different look under the lights and everything, but I don’t think it’s a big deal at all.

On the time change
I think either way, it’s a big event – whether you put it at one or five or eight. It’s just a different look. I remember in Buffalo it was just starting to get dark when we were finishing. But this one will be different and probably a neat feeling.

On any lessons he learned in Buffalo that will help him Saturday night
I learned just to keep an open mind about everything, and to no get too caught up in everything. You’re better off expecting to have to adjust.

On if the change of schedule changed his New Year’s Eve plans:
No, I was in bed (for Midnight).

Kris Letang

On Paul Coffey saying his sons try to model their game after Letang:
That’s incredible. That means a lot to me, especially coming from a Hall of Famer like that. I grew up watching him play and was always amazed with him, the way he skated and how smart he was on the ice. So it’s very flattering.

On adjusting to the time change of the Winter Classic:
It makes it more like a normal game with the morning skate now, but it’s still going to be special. We’re going to be playing outside in front of 65,000 people. So it’s not a regular game.

One-timer: Tony Jovenitti

11:19 AM:
HUGE NEWS!!!!!!! Jordan Staal is back! He'll lace up the skates for the first time this season in tonight's Winter Classic. Details coming soon! Click here for all the details on Staal's return to the lineup.

I'll bet this song sums up Staal's feelings right now...

10:53 AM:
Pens WC morning skate:

Kris Letang (left); Bylsma and Staal (right)

10:36 AM:
The Pens lines from the first-ever Winter Classic morning skate:


10:32 AM:
The players are at center ice for the first-ever Winter Classic morning skate. We're making history here folks. This is unprecedented!!!

10:08 AM:
Trib Total Media's Rob Rossi is feeling some pain from last night's New Year's festivities. His current breakfast is a bottle of generic convenient store Pedialyte. Somehow the conversation turned to the fact that some people think Rossi is an intimidating person to be around.

To which he replied: "I'm drinking Pedialyte, how frightening can I be?"

Best line of 2011!

9:50 AM:
Well, we were supposed to be firing up the blog this morning from Heinz Field. Unfortunately, mother nature isn't being very nice right now. The rain has forced the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to move its start time to 8 p.m

Thus, the team has scheduled a 10:30 a.m. morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center, which is where we are currently, with the Caps hitting the ice at 11:30. The skate is not open to the public.

For those that are tailgating at Heinz Field today, I hope you brought your umbrella ella ella eh eh.

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