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Stars work on 'getting mind right' ahead of Winter Classic

Enjoying the atmosphere of playing outdoors, Dallas understands two important points are still on the line

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The Stars on Tuesday came one step closer to understanding the reality of playing an outdoor game in Texas, and they now understand just how challenging that's going to be.

Both Dallas and Nashville were able to skate on the ice at Cotton Bowl Stadium, and both said there will be adjustments after going through a practice. The temporary rink is on an elevated platform with different boards and different glass from what the team uses at American Airlines Center. Mix into that the fact the sight lines will be very different and the natural lighting will take some getting used to, and you have the need for adjustments.

 

[WINTER CLASSIC GUIDE: Everything you need to know before the Stars and Predators face off at Cotton Bowl Stadium]

 

"It will be different," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness.

"I think as the game goes on, you'll get climatized to surroundings, and get used to the ice conditions. I think it's going to be a little unsettling early for both teams because it is totally different. The ice is different, it feels different, it looks different. The crowd, the stands -- everything about it is different, and it will probably take a little bit to get used to that."

The ice, which was melted down by a heavy rain Saturday, has been rebuilt and received great marks from the players after a good skate Tuesday. However, many players said the feeling of skating was a little spongy because of the platform, and said the sound was very different.

Video: Bowness wants Stars to enjoy NHL Winter Classic

"Skating-wise was really good. Puck was bouncing a lot, but it was pretty good," said Stars center Radek Faksa. "When you are shooting it feels a little strange. We will have to adjust."

And that is the biggest takeaway from Tuesday's practice.

 

[PHOTOS: Stars take the ice for New Year's Eve practice at Cotton Bowl Stadium]

 

Stars goalie Ben Bishop loves to play the puck behind the net, but is a little worried about how the puck will play off the stanchions in the glass. He said he will be cautious early to read how play evolves. Players are expected to dip their toes in so they can react to sun, the way the puck bounces off the boards, and how shots come off of the ice.

"It was all pretty good," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "The rink seemed a little smaller with the big stadium, but two teams have to play on it, so it should be pretty fun."

Stars forward Jason Dickinson said one of the big things to keep in mind is this is a real game against a rival opponent for real points in the standings.

Video: Benn, Seguin on experiencing first NHL Winter Classic

"Something that might get missed in preparation is getting your mind right," Dickinson said. "This is still a divisional game and we are still playing a team that is in a playoff hunt right now and we want to keep climbing the standings. We can't forget that this game can be very important in the long run, so we have to put the fun aspect to the side and realize we have to work still."

The Stars beat the Predators in Nashville a few weeks back and won a six-game playoff series between these two teams in April, so there is plenty of familiarity between the two teams.

"It's a real game, a divisional game, a huge game," said Faksa. "We're going to be excited, and it will be different, but we will try to treat it the same."

Players wore eye black to battle the sun and said that there were reflections off of the shiny seats during practice in an empty stadium. However, the forecast is for clouds on Wednesday, and the building will be full, so there will be adjustments again.

"This is an amazing wonderful event but when the puck drops, you've got to play," Bowness said. "And if we have to play through climatizing ourselves with the surroundings, hey, that's what we do."

 

2020 NHL Winter Classic: Stars vs. Predators

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. CT

Where: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas

TV/radio: NBC; The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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