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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Will Red Wings have their day in the sun?

CHICAGO -- Mikael Samuelsson's eyes brightened like the mid-day sun. A scorer's dream was the topic of conversation … shooting on an NHL goalie who has sunshine in his eyes and a glare bouncing up off the ice.

"If the goalie has the sun in his eyes, you've got to put it to the net," said Samuelsson. "Seriously, just throw it in there from anywhere."

As predictable as the conditions are at every other NHL game, the conditions for tomorrow's Winter Classic at Wrigley Field (1 p.m., NBC) between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are a wild card.

The temperature of an NHL sheet of indoor ice is kept at 22 degrees. The building temperature is controlled. Even the pucks are kept in a refrigerator, chilled to the proper temp.

But players became weather watchers after today's practice at Wrigley Field -- the first time that either team has skated in the temporary ice rink that runs from first to third base with center ice being near second base.

"I heard it's supposed to be cloudy," said Detroit's Valtteri Filppula. "That's going to be a factor."

This will be the second annual Winter Classic and the third outdoor NHL game ever.

The forecast for Chicago at game time is 31 degrees with high winds and partly cloudy. If the sun shows itself during the game, it will become a players as much as any who wear the special one-game jerseys.

At 1 p.m. during the Blackhawks' practice, the sun covered two-thirds of the ice, shining right into the spot where Cristobal Huet will stand in net for the Blackhawks in the first period. In addition, the players noted that there was a significant glare reflecting off the ice, making it easy to lose the puck.

"We noticed that at the beginning when we're skating around," said Detroit forward Jiri Hudler. "You lose the puck for a second. It just shows up. But it's ok. You change ends."

The sun, however, was less of a factor as the day of practices went on with shade covering most of the surface by the time that today's contest would be winding down.

"It was tough to see," said Filppula. "It took a while to get used to, especially for the goalies it might be tough. It took a while to get a good focus on the puck. Obviously, that would be a problem."

Ty Conklin will start in net for Detroit, making him the dean of NHL outdoor games. The well-traveled backup has started all three outdoor games -- for Edmonton against Montreal in 2003 and for Pittsburgh in Buffalo last winter.

"I thought the black stuff helped a little bit," said Conklin, who like many players, who eye black like baseball and football players do. "It's different when it goes from the sunlight to the shadows. It makes it a lot more difficult to pick up the puck. But everybody will have to play through it. So, it's really not that big of a deal."

There were also significant chips in the ice during practices. The players, however, were confident that the conditions would improve for today's game because of two reasons: The staff can adjust the ice better after players practice on it; the temperatures will be nearly 10 degrees warmer tomorrow. Colder temperatures lead to chippy ice.

"The ice, let's give it a day," said Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell. "It's tough to tell right now because it's the first time people have skated on it."

The other factor that players noted about practicing outdoors was that cold fingers lead to feeling greater pain when your stick is slashed -- much like a baseball batter getting jammed with an inside pitch.

"You feel it a lot," said Kopecky.


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