Penguins ready for great outdoors

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:55 PM ET

The Penguins are looking forward to hitting the great outdoors on New Yearís Day.

The first time Pittsburgh played in the event in 2008 against the Sabres in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, former Olympiques centre Maxime Talbot was out with an ankle sprain.

ďItís something really exciting and special, especially since I didnít have a chance to play in the first one,Ē said Talbot. ďThereís a lot of hype around it, itís not just any other game.Ē

Talbot said the highlight of the first Winter Classic was ďa snowball fightĒ with G Marc-Andre Fleury, who was also out with an injury.

This time around, the Penguins will host the Capitals at Heinz Field.

Of course, Ottawa would be a great place for an outdoor game like the Winter Classic once Lansdowne Live is completed in 2013.

Ottawa D Chris Phillips (aka The Big Rig) suited up for his 900th NHL game vs. Pittsburgh.

He hasnít played outdoors and sounded cool to the idea.

ďThe fact that we havenít done it hasnít really bothered me,Ē said Phillips.

ďIf we were ever able to do it, I would fully embrace it and make it a great experience. Iím not sure Iíve wanted to do that. I donít know. You hear mixed reports from guys.Ē

The Senators have held a practice on the canal during Winterlude, but thatís been the extent of their outdoor activity.

Phillips was given a nice ovation after a video presentation in the first period.

That moustache on Sid the Kidís upper lip has got to go. It just doesnít look good on Sidney Crosby and he doesnít believe itís going to get much better.

ďProbably not (going to be) much more (hair) than this, to be honest with you,Ē said Crosby.

Of course, heís riding a 24-game point-scoring streak after netting a goal in Sundayís 3-1 loss, so he doesnít have any reason to shave.

Crosby is playing the best hockey of his career as the Penguins continue on their incredible run. He claims not to be doing anything differently, but nobody can ever question this guyís determination.

Itís the longest streak since Mats Sundin scored a point in 30 consecutive games with the Quebec Nordiques in 1992-93.

ďThereís times Iíve played well and thereís been times where I didnít play so well, but got some bounces.

ďFor anything like (the streak), youíve got to get some luck as well,Ē Crosby said before the game.

So, does his streak help him appreciate what Wayne Gretzky did during his 51-game point-scoring streak with Edmonton in 1983-84 even more? During that stretch, the Great One had 61 goals and 92 assists for 153 points.

ďItís hard to imagine that, somebody doing that each and every night for 51 games,Ē said Crosby. ďThatís pretty scary as well. He set the bar pretty high.Ē

So did Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson get anything other than socks and underwear that he wanted for Christmas? ďI got those things, but I also got some dress clothes, which was what I wanted.Ē The highlight under tough guy Chris Neilís tree: An iPad from his wife Caitlin.

Things I think I think

Ottawa G Pascal Leclaire has been told to stay off skates until Monday by the clubís medical staff. Thereís no timetable for his return from a lower-body injury. ďHeís had some discomfort,Ē said coach Cory Clouston. When will Leclaire return? Nobody is sure, but we havenít seen the last callup of G Mike Brodeur, who backed up Brian Elliott Sunday ... Didnít take Matt Carkner long to serve notice he was back in the lineup in place of Brian Lee, who was still feeling the pain of a shot he blocked vs. the Predators Thursday. Carkner went toe-to-toe with Eric Godard only 2:07 into the first. A good tilt. Godardís eye was almost swollen shut afterward. Godard tried to goad Carkner into a rematch in the second period and wound up with a 10-minute misconduct for his trouble ... The forecast for Pittsburgh for New Yearís Day: Warm and rainy. If the game canít be played outside Saturday or Sunday, it will be moved to the Consol Energy Center on Monday ... The NHLís holiday roster freeze ends Monday. With the Devils looking for blue-line help, the Senators have been linked to New Jersey W Jamie Langenbrunner. Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier is rumoured to be interested and sources say he has been calling Devils counterpart GM Lou Lamoriello.

This íní that

The Penguins donít go many places without an HBO crew. They are being tailed as part of the 24/7 series in the buildup to the Winter Classic. Coach Dan Bylsma and C Michael Rupp both had HBO in their homes on Christmas Day. ďItís been good. With the time, everybody has gotten more and more comfortable with having cameras around,Ē said captain Sidney Crosby. ďAt first, Iím sure a few guys werenít used to breakfast at the rink with cameras in their face. Itís nice for people to see that side of things with the meetings and the intensity and the emotion. Itís pretty good perspective for what itís like with the ups/downs that come with a season. Itís a pretty neat look.Ē

Cíest what?

ďItís easier for the Europeans (to play on Boxing Day) because we have our big meal on Christmas Eve. Weíre not as stuffed. So if a European has a big game, youíll know why.Ē ó Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson on returning after the two-day break.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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