CHICAGO – The one thing you can always predict about Midwest weather is that it is unpredictable. At this point, however, it appears that an outdoor game in the Midwest in the dead of winter is going to feel just like it sounds.
According to weather.com, it will be a high of 20 degrees at puck drop at 8 p.m. ET, with a wind chill of about 7. There's also a 60 percent chance of snow with a possible accumulation of three to five inches. So that could make things a little interesting.
The weather is something Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has on his mind heading into Saturday night's contest.
“The elements are always a little bit different,” said Bylsma, who also coached outdoors at the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh when rain proved to be problematic. “But having said that, you can probably over-coach this game, and that's something I think I'll remember from the last one.
"It really does need to be a little bit more of simplifying. Having that expectation about how you're going to execute and what you need to do and then dealing with the elements."
Bylsma has several players that were part of the snowy first Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008, though the head coach himself was not yet leading the team. That experience could prove advantageous, but Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville actually may be rooting for snow himself.
“If it snows, think everybody will be excited to play in that setting,” he said. “I know Pittsburgh was in that environment when they played in Buffalo [in 2008].
“I think you look back at your days when you're a kid growing up and you had some outdoor opportunities, and when it snowed, it seemed like the intensity picked up or it just seemed that everybody had more fun, be it spectators or the players, for sure.”
Snow can make things particularly interesting for the goalies as Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury noted after being informed snow was in the forecast for Saturday night.
“If it snows, it might be a little tricky,” said Fleury after Penguins practice Friday. “You've got to deal with it. It's the same for both sides.”
As far as the cold is concerned, most players seemed unbothered by it during practice when temps dipped into the low 20s.
As with any outdoor game, the ice is always a hot topic, but the playing surface received rave reviews from most players after both teams skated on it Friday.
“It was really good, actually, for what you hear about these kind of games,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane of the ice surface after Friday's practice. “If tonight was any indication, it should be pretty good out there.”
The setting at Soldier Field should be another great one for the NHL, which gets two of its best teams on the outdoor ice in primetime.