Penguins notebook: Playing surface passes its first test
February 28, 2014 11:24 PM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Penguins players practice Friday for their team's outdoor game against the Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- The Penguins have seen snow. They've seen rain. Friday, they saw an outdoor sheet of ice they liked.
"The ice was awesome," center Sidney Crosby said after the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks skated on an outdoor rink built on the Soldier Field floor for the NHL Stadium Series finale tonight.
"It was really good. I think we were the first of anyone to skate on it. Usually, they say it gets a little better the more guys skate on it and it settles a little bit more."
Penguins winger Jussi Jokinen's expectations weren't terribly high, so he was more than pleasantly surprised.
"I think it was much better than what I thought it would be," he said. "It's my first outdoor game, and you always are preparing for the worst, but the ice crew did a good job."
Despite the empty seats, Jokinen enjoyed soaking in the experience of the practice.
"When you walked out there, the stadium looked so big, and the rink looked so small, but I think I'm probably one of the most excited guys," he said.
The Penguins played in snow in Buffalo in the first NHL outdoor Winter Classic in 2008, and in rain when the 2011 Winter Classic was played at Heinz Field.
Snow is forecast for tonight, but the Penguins anticipate favorable ice conditions.
"It's really good," Penguins winger Tanner Glass said. '"It was hard, and it held up well. I'm optimistic about that [for tonight], for sure."
Surgery for Martin
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin, who broke his right hand while playing for Team USA at the Olympics, had surgery Thursday.
Coach Dan Bylsma said doctors felt that surgery "would be a better avenue for recovery, a quicker recovery."
Deserved break for Glass
The NHL rescinded a major elbowing penalty and game misconduct given to Glass in the third period of a 6-5 shootout loss Thursday against Montreal.
Replays showed that Montreal's Alexei Emelin got his glove and stick up, and those hit him in the face, not Glass.
"Sometimes, a player gets a penalty and ... they have a sense about it," Bylsma said.
"Tanner was flabbergasted that he got a penalty. ... Being rescinded confirms that for him."
The penalty was significant because the Canadiens scored on the resulting power play, tying the score at 5-5 and forcing overtime. Bylsma, though, exonerated the referees.
"I'm not going to say it was an easy call," he said.
Prepractice injury for Fleury
Even though the ice conditions at Soldier Field were good, there was a minor casualty -- and it came before any players stepped onto the ice.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was sitting at his stall in the locker room when his Stadium Series helmet -- the one designed to look like a Steelers helmet -- fell from its nook above and hit him.
He got some stitches near the outer edge of his left eyebrow, and, by the end of practice, there was near-pingpong-ball-like swelling.
He joked that with stitches on his face, which normally is protected from lacerations, he finally looks like a hockey player.
Fleury had a small camera attached to the top of that helmet for the practice.
Letang hits the ice
Following their practices, the Penguins and Blackhawks had a family skate. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang joined in. It was believed to be his first time on the ice since his Jan. 30 stroke.
Bylsma called it "just a casual skate."
Letang also joined his teammates when they donned their Stadium Series jerseys and posed for a team photo before practice.
The pregame festivities will include a salute to former Blackhawks and NHL Hall of Famers Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard, and two Chicago Bears legends, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. ... The game will feature performers with ties to Chicago. Pop/rock band Plain White T's and Blues Brothers tribute band Blooze Brothers will be on stage pregame and during the first and second intermissions, respectively. Longtime Blackhawks anthem singer Jim Cornelison will perform the U.S. national anthem, with The Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band providing accompaniment for Blackhawks and Penguins pregame player introductions.
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