BUFFALO -- The snapshot of Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore standing in the crease with his Habs toque over the helmet part of his mask is one of the most memorable moments of 2003's Heritage Classic in Edmonton.
Don't worry, folks, Ryan Miller has already picked out his toque for the NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
"I'm going to have to find a way to make it fit," the Sabres goaltender said yesterday. "It's kind of a hockey sock I have to get over my helmet."
While the outdoor game at the almost-74,000-seat Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., is still five days away, preparations are well under way for the Sabres' showdown against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.
With all the talk in the Buffalo dressing room -- where Miller was showing off the specially designed helmet he'll wear that will be auctioned off for charity afterward -- about the game, you'd hardly know that the Sabres still had to face the Senators last night and had two more games before Jan. 1.
The Sabres will also open HSBC Arena and they're expecting another 10,000-12,000 fans to enjoy the festivities on the big screen to raise money for charity as well.
"It's going to be fun and it's good for hockey," said Miller, who played in an outdoor game with Michigan State against the University of Michigan in 2001 in East Lansing. "There's going to be a lot going on in the area, a lot of parties, and I think people are really going to enjoy it."
While the Sabres are excited about the prospect of playing in front of such a large crowd, they have concerns about the weather and ice conditions.
"I don't know how this is going to work out," said Buffalo defenceman Brian Campbell. "It will be fun, but it's going to be challenging for everybody.
"Who knows about the conditions or the ice? Nobody knows. It's a new experience for us. But the (Buffalo area) has done a really good job supporting it and people are really, really excited about it. Instead of having eight football games, they get nine to enjoy, so it should be good."
Campbell said he hasn't played outside since his junior days with the 67's.
"The ice was always great at the outdoor rinks in Ottawa because the weather was so cold. Hopefully, it's going to be good here, but they don't have much time to build it," said Campbell.
UH, OH, NO CORVO: Senators D Joe Corvo decided after a short skate yesterday at HSBC Arena that his injured groin wasn't going to allow him to play last night. Corvo missed his second straight game and D Lawrence Nycholat was recalled on an emergency basis from Binghamton.
MOVING SLOW: Campbell chose his words carefully when asked if his agent, Larry Kelly, had any discussions with the Sabres about a new contract. Campbell can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and admits it's a delicate subject after the Sabres lost C Chris Drury and C Daniel Briere as UFAs last summer. "It's tough to really comment on," said Campbell. "There's been a little bit (of discussions), but nothing serious. We'll see what happens. I'd like to stay here, but I don't know. There's still time left to get something done. I'd like to get something done sooner than later, but that's not (his) choice or decision." It's believed Campbell is seeking a five-year, $25-million (all terms US) deal. You'd think Sabres management would have learned after last summer's fiasco with Briere and Drury.
NO CALLS: If you are hoping Senators GM Bryan Murray deals either G Martin Gerber or G Ray Emery, you could be in for a long wait. "I have not had one call," said Murray. "Earlier in the season, I initiated a couple of calls, but beyond that, I have not had one call."
BIG DEBUT: Senators W Nick Foligno had reason to be excited last night as he played his first NHL game in the city where he was born and where father Mike starred for several years as a member of the Sabres.
RUMOUR DU JOUR: The NHL's holiday freeze will be lifted today, so I won't make you wait until Sunday for this trade rumour: There are reports the Rangers are trying to send Ds Marek Malik and Paul Mara to the Blue Jackets for W David Vyborny and D Rostislav Klesla. Stay tuned.