WASHINGTON, D.C. — If the sun shining on the rink at Nationals Park today was any indication, it could be difficult to start Thursday's Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals on time.
As of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Weather.com was predicting that the temperature for the opening puck-drop shortly after 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday will be 41 degrees with plenty of sun, which will surely make things challenging for the players.
The Capitals took the ice for practice at 11:30 a.m. and were able to get a feel for the likely game conditions. During the skate, several players, including right wing Troy Brouwer, were wearing eye-black to combat the glare.
Brouwer later reported that "There was a lot of glare on the ice, so it might be an issue that we’ll have to deal with tomorrow."
But there was at least one immediate plus. "If the weather’s going to be like it was today, then I don’t think you’ll have to put on any extra layers (of clothing)," he said. "It was fairly comfortable out there. A little chilly on the ears, but not so bad. The ice was good, so I don’t think you’d have to change the edges on your skates."
Brouwer, who played for the Blackhawks in the 2009 Winter Classic at Chicago's Wrigley Field, noted that there are always a few differences in playing an outdoor game.
"Certain things that kind of throw you off, that nobody thinks about is a little bit of depth perception when you’re shooting on the net," he said. "It throws you off a little bit, but they did a good job preparing the ice. I don’t think there will be too many adjustments tomorrow."
Despite the sun, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said his team was impressed by the condition of the ice.
"I think the ice was phenomenal, it really was," he said. "I wasn’t sure what to expect. Dan Craig and his staff have done a wonderful job. Obviously they’re getting really good at it, they’ve done a number of these events in different conditions, and he’s the best in the business.
"The ice won’t be a problem, the boards won’t be a problem. We were out earlier and [on] one end, there was a lot of glare, but toward the end of practice it settled down."
Trotz said that he and Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville have discussed with the league the possibility of switching ends at the 10 minute mark of the first period to make it fair for both teams if there is excessive sun in the eyes of one team.
“If it stays gorgeous like it was like that today,” Trotz said, “it will be a great game tomorrow.”
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