Canadiens, Senators brace for ice-cold outdoor game
OTTAWA -- Different elements will be in play when the Ottawa Senators entertain the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Frigid temperatures and the possibility of snow should be among them.
For the first time, Ottawa is playing host to an outdoor game, as NHL100 Classic sets up at TD Place, home of the Canadian Football League Ottawa REDBLACKS.
In excess of 30,000 fans are expected to brave the coldest weekend of the winter thus far. After practicing on the outdoor rink Friday, players expressed their excitement.
"This is unbelievable," said Senators center Matt Duchene, who circled the date on his calendar after being traded from Colorado a month ago. "You're playing for a Canadian team against a Canadian team in the capital of Canada. This has been a whirlwind for me. This is something I knew was coming. I've really been looking for it."
Not to be forgotten for the Senators, however, is the importance of the game. After a brutal road trip that saw them win just one of seven games and fall deep down the Eastern Conference standings, the Senators defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in their first game back on Wednesday night.
The win didn't get them any closer than seven points back of the last division playoff spot, with the Canadiens a team they have to past on their way.
"I don't think the big thing for us is that we're having this type of game," Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said of playing outdoors. "We needed to come back home and we needed it big time. We've been on the road for a month. That was huge. Just to come back, I saw the energy change at home. We had terrific energy, great enthusiasm. It's the same feeling here."
While Craig Anderson will be in goal for the Senators, Carey Price makes his 10th straight start between the pipes for Montreal.
The Canadiens are coming off Thursday's 2-1 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils that snapped a three-game losing streak.
To get acclimatized, the Canadiens strayed from their normal routine by practicing in Ottawa on Friday.
"The most important thing for us is to get the two points," Habs center Tomas Plekanec told the Montreal Gazette. "These games are different, they're fun, but we have to remember we need points."
Stressing the point was Canadiens coach Claude Julien, an Ottawa native.
"There's no doubt when you're playing outside you're looking at more things than you would in a normal game," Julien told the Gazette. "Weather has an effect on your game plan. The ice was great today and we hope it's the same tomorrow, but if the ice isn't as good and there are certain situations with the weather and the wind, we'll try to keep the game simple.
"You may have to tweak things along the way, but you don't need to overload your players with all these things. But, as a coach, you have to be ready.
"I don't hate these games. These games get a lot of people excited, even the players. There are guys who haven't played an outdoor game yet. A lot of people will tell you it's grown old, but it's an experience. But you have to manage it properly. Guys have to understand that's a big two points."
Updated December 16, 2017