Winter Classic: Penguins' Crosby looking forward to playing under lights


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By the time the Penguins had finished their practice at Heinz Field in the early afternoon Friday, rumors were swirling that the Winter Classic would be moved to tonight to try to avoid an expected all-day rain.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby welcomed the idea of the premier outdoor game against Washington going prime time.

"I think it would be great either way," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with playing underneath the lights. I think that would be pretty nice.

"Whatever the scenario, I think we've got a pretty open mind to whatever happens, and we should all be enjoying ourselves no matter what the scenario."

The game was, in fact, pushed to 8 p.m.

PG VIDEO: COACH BYLSMA ON THE WEATHER

"That's actually more like a regular game day for us, so it would actually better for us," Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault said.

The unknown will be the condition of the ice surface.

Reviews were mixed Friday -- the later in the day it got and the heavier the traffic on the ice got, the worse things seemed to get.

After the morning Penguins-Capitals alumni game, the former players gave a thumbs-up.

"The ice crew has done a great job," former defenseman Paul Coffey said. "The ice was great."

The Penguins had some drizzle early in their ensuing practice, then a little sun before they were done.

Crosby said he did not let the raindrops on his visor bother his vision -- "It was there, but you just tilt it up," he said, with a smile -- but the ice surface was beginning to deteriorate as temperatures soared into the 50s.

"It was a little humid, a little warm, and the ice was a little maybe softer than usual," Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It was fun, though."

Center Mark Letestu called the ice "sticky."

By the time Washington took the ice, it was nearly 2:30, and things were worse, partly because the sun was shining on areas of the ice. Cones had to be set up in two spots because ice there was unsafe.

"It was really soft in the corners especially," Perreault said. "It was cracking a lot. I'm sure they'll fix it, but I don't know what the rain would do."

Most likely, rain before or even during the game tonight will make the going slower for the skaters -- something Penguins fourth-liner Craig Adams took in stride.

"That will probably play into my game and away from Sid's game," he cracked about his highly skilled teammate. "It won't be good for the power plays, let's just say that."

Although the steady rain could stop by game time, there still could be delays before skies clear for good. That could mean players will have to sit for extended periods between playing.

"Oh, I do that every night," Adams cracked, then added more seriously, "That would be tough, but it will be the same for both teams."

While conventional wisdom indicates there could be an increased risk of injury to players if the ice surface gets saturated with rain, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau did not know how to gauge that.

"They tell me there's a risk, but I don't know of too many hockey guys who have played in the rain before," he said. "I would assume the ice would bevel and bump up and everything [if it gets rained on].

"But it's the same for both teams, the same risks for both team.

"So, if it was gravel, it wouldn't matter, you know?"


For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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