The Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas marks the first time either the host Stars or Nashville Predators have been part of the league’s marquee outdoor games, but there are players with experience on both sides.
Their advice to teammates before suiting up Wednesday afternoon is simple: be prepared.
“You have to prepare for good ice, bad ice, a good hockey game, kind of a weird game — you don’t really know what’s going to be thrown at you, so you just try to adapt and not get rattled by that,” said Predators forward Matt Duchene, who will be suiting up for his third NHL outdoor game.
“You almost can’t prepare the same, it’s just impossible and you just try and take it as it comes and try and be the best you can be.”
Stars defenseman Roman Polak also has played in a pair of outdoor games, and both were delayed – once because the lights went out and the other due to glare on the ice because it was too sunny.
“I think it’s exciting,” Polak told the Dallas Morning News. “On the other hand, it’s a lot of problems, a lot of worries, a lot of issues. You need to adapt. It’s a cool thing to play. I always love it, but I said, ‘One is enough. Two is too much.’ This is going to be my third one. I think it’s going to be great for the city, for the fans, for everyone, but for the players, you never know. You need to be ready every minute.”
The football stadium is expected to host 83,000 fans on New Year’s Day, but the fact remains this clash is an important regular-season meeting for the Central Division rivals.
The Stars are looking to build on a modest two-game winning streak, and coming off a 4-2 road victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday in which they trailed 2-0 after two periods.
Meanwhile, the Predators are looking to rebound after being swept in a home-and-home set with the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the second game resulting in a 6-4 road defeat on Saturday. Nashville is six points back of Dallas in the standings with two games in hand, so this is a golden opportunity to make up ground even amidst the fanfare.
“We’ll try to enjoy it, but it’s two points,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “Right now, we are in a jam. Every point is crucial for us, so obviously we’ve got to treat it as the biggest game of the year.”
A game in which both teams are all-too-familiar with each other.
“We know Nashville very well,” Stars interim coach Rick Bowness told the Dallas Morning News. “We know their tendencies. They know ours. We know the matchups we’re going to try to get. They know the matchups they’re going to try to get. How much the outdoor rink plays into that, we won’t know until we get in. I can’t see a lot of changes other than the rink and the outdoor atmosphere.”
The game will feature two players who were selected to this season’s All-Star Game.
The Predators’ representative is captain Roman Josi, who is riding a seven-game point streak (seven goals, six assists).
Dallas’ representative is forward Tyler Seguin.
–Field Level Media