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Winter Classic Time Change Brings Normalcy to Routine

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
When the initial weather reports for New Year’s Day came out, everyone with a stake in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic directed some anger toward Mother Nature. But as it turns out, the rain may be a blessing in disguise.

The NHL changed the start time for the Winter Classic from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and it helped the players get back into their normal game-day routine.

“It’s nice to come to the rink and do what we do usually,” Marc-Andre Fleury said.

Both the Penguins and Capitals went to CONSOL Energy Center Saturday for a typical morning skate session before they will head to Heinz Field after a mid-day break to play under the lights in the league’s first-ever primetime Winter Classic.

“In some aspects, a later start lends to more normalcy,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “The guys will be getting their normal meal at home and getting their rest, coming to the rink at their normal time.”

“We’re going through a pretty typical routine here,” Sidney Crosby said.

The entire team is taking advantage of the bad weather.

“Things are not going to change now, obviously we know how to prepare for these kind of days,” Pascal Dupuis said.

But the fact remains that the team will be playing in a sold-out NFL stadium under the Saturday night lights. So no matter the routine, the game will be unlike all others.

“We’re going to be playing outside in front of 65,000 people,” Kris Letang said. “So it’s not a regular game.”

And since they can’t control the weather, the players are just looking forward to cherishing the opportunity.

"It adds a different element, playing a game under the lights," Chris Kunitz said. "It's the first time it's been played at night, so you can't really draw on any experience for it. The NHL had a great mindset to make a backup plan."

“It’s like those after-dinner, outdoor stories when you’re young, waiting ‘til your mom calls you in and you stay out there,” Dupuis said. “So it’s going to make it fun to play outdoors under the lights.”

Sidney Crosby – calm and collected as always – is just trying to focus on the game.

“It will be a different look under the lights and everything, but I don’t think it’s a big deal at all,” he said.

But he certainly understands the magnitude of Saturday’s events.

“I think either way, it’s a big event – whether you put it at one or five or eight,” Crosby said. “It’s just a different look.”
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