January 2, 2012 in Sports

Flyers, Rangers face off outdoors in Winter Classic

 

PHILADELPHIA – Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr hit the ice looking more ready to shag flies than practice the power play.

The Philadelphia Flyers stars smeared eye black to fight the glare on a sunny morning as they skated on a rink constructed on the site of two Fall Classics that underwent a makeover as it shifted into the home of the Winter Classic.

Jagr later strode shirtless around the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse with a baseball bat slung over his shoulder.

Cold, wind, ice. Conditions that usually spoil the enjoyment of a World Series game are on deck for the fifth edition of the NHL’s inside-the-park extravaganza, this one set for noon today between the Flyers and the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.

Amid the HBO cameras and Stanley Cup atmosphere that has infused the game with enough energy to power the rink, a little perspective came Sunday from the teams in their final practices.

“When we wake up, all the fun is going to be over,” Giroux said, “and it’s about two points on the ice.”

The game was pushed back two hours because of a revised weather forecast that should offer optimal game conditions for players and fans.

Last year’s game at Pittsburgh was moved into prime time because of rain.

“Let’s play,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “It’s time to play the game.”

While fans hoped for winter wonderland conditions, the two-hour shift will at least mean chilly temperatures and less sun.

“It’s going to feel different to be out there,” Rangers center Brad Richards said. “It’ll be, look around for a little bit, but you don’t want to get clocked, so you can’t look too much.”

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette made it clear winning the game between two teams jostling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference is more important than putting on a show when he benched slumping goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for Sergei Bobrovsky.

With temperatures expected in the low 40s, Bryzgalov joked he’d sip Earl Grey tea to keep warm. He could be in hot water after revealing before Laviolette’s announcement that Bobrovsky would be in charge of trying to stop Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan instead of him. Laviolette has strict guidelines on how he presents the day’s starting goalie – never a day ahead, rarely at morning skate.“I have great news and even better news,” Bryzgalov said. “Great news, I’m not playing tomorrow night. Good news, we have a chance to win the game tomorrow night.”

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