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 Year’s 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.

“It’s something really exciting and special, especially since I didn’t have a chance to play in the first one,” said Talbot. “There’s a lot of hype around it, it’s not just any other game.”

Talbot said the highlight of the first Winter Classic was “a snowball fight” 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 hasn’t played outdoors and sounded cool to the idea.

“The fact that we haven’t done it hasn’t really bothered me,” said Phillips.

“If we were ever able to do it, I would fully embrace it and make it a great experience. I’m not sure I’ve wanted to do that. I don’t know. You hear mixed reports from guys.”

The Senators have held a practice on the canal during Winterlude, but that’s 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 Kid’s upper lip has got to go. It just doesn’t look good on Sidney Crosby and he doesn’t believe it’s going to get much better.

“Probably not (going to be) much more (hair) than this, to be honest with you,” said Crosby.

Of course, he’s riding a 24-game point-scoring streak after netting a goal in Sunday’s 3-1 loss, so he doesn’t 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 guy’s determination.

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

“There’s times I’ve played well and there’s been times where I didn’t play so well, but got some bounces.

“For anything like (the streak), you’ve got to get some luck as well,” 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.

“It’s hard to imagine that, somebody doing that each and every night for 51 games,” said Crosby. “That’s pretty scary as well. He set the bar pretty high.”

So did Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson get anything other than socks and underwear that he wanted for Christmas? “I got those things, but I also got some dress clothes, which was what I wanted.” The highlight under tough guy Chris Neil’s 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 club’s medical staff. There’s no timetable for his return from a lower-body injury. “He’s had some discomfort,” said coach Cory Clouston. When will Leclaire return? Nobody is sure, but we haven’t seen the last callup of G Mike Brodeur, who backed up Brian Elliott Sunday ... Didn’t 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. Godard’s 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 Year’s Day: Warm and rainy. If the game can’t be played outside Saturday or Sunday, it will be moved to the Consol Energy Center on Monday ... The NHL’s 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 ’n’ that

The Penguins don’t 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. “It’s been good. With the time, everybody has gotten more and more comfortable with having cameras around,” said captain Sidney Crosby. “At first, I’m sure a few guys weren’t used to breakfast at the rink with cameras in their face. It’s nice for people to see that side of things with the meetings and the intensity and the emotion. It’s pretty good perspective for what it’s like with the ups/downs that come with a season. It’s a pretty neat look.”

C’est what?

“It’s easier for the Europeans (to play on Boxing Day) because we have our big meal on Christmas Eve. We’re not as stuffed. So if a European has a big game, you’ll know why.” — Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson on returning after the two-day break.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos