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Flyers, Penguins Look Forward to Playing at Heinz Field

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

For one night, they will rewind the clock. Back to when they were kids playing on a frozen pond. Back to when they weren't questioned about collapsing since their 10-game winning streak ended.

It's the Flyers vs. their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, at Heinz Field on Saturday night at 8.

"I think everybody has great memories of growing up and playing outdoors," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "For us, we had a backyard creek that we would shovel off" before playing. "I'm sure everybody can sit back and tell you stories of playing on outdoor rinks."

Hakstol paused.

"I've got two kids who grew up playing on outdoor rinks, and it's pretty cool," he said. "It takes you right back to the heart of the game and kind of the purity of the game."

This will be the Flyers' third outdoor game. They lost in overtime to the Boston Bruins, 2-1, at Fenway Park in 2010 and then dropped a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park in 2012.

A total of 14 Flyers have played in outdoor games on the NHL, AHL or collegiate level.

"It's a cool experience," Flyers left winger Brayden Schenn said. "A lot of families are coming to town. We obviously know there are two points on the line, but it's a whole difference experience, and its pretty cool for us as well."

Schenn has good reason for his affinity to outdoor games. He scored his first career goal in the 2012 game before 46,967 at Citizens Bank Park.

Before that game, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled Schenn aside in the hallway.

"You can't wait forever to score," Laviolette told him, playfully. "Better get one today."

Schenn complied.

"It took me 20-some games to get my first goal. But to get it on a big stage like that in front of friends and family was obviously a cool experience for me," he said.

On Friday, when record high temperatures are in the forecast, the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins will practice at Heinz Field at 4 p.m., followed by the Flyers' practice at 6. After the latter practice, the Flyers and their families will get a chance to skate under the lights.

It's supposed to be partly sunny Friday with temperatures expected to reach 77 degrees, which would break the record of 70 last reached in 1906.

The forecast calls for rain during the day on Saturday, but it should be clear with temperatures in the 30s at game time. There could be a few flurries late Saturday night, forecasters say.

Defensemen Brandon Manning, Ivan Provorov, and Radko Gudas are among the Flyers playing in their first outdoor games.

"It's going to be an exciting game, an exciting time," said Provorov, a Russia native. "I'm just going to try to enjoy it. A lot of guys play in the NHL a long time and don't get a chance to play in an outdoor game. It's going to be a special game."

"Obviously, it's still going to be an important two points, but I think it's a part of the year where you can kind of step back and appreciate it," said Manning, whose sagging team is fighting to stay alive in the playoff race. "I know a lot of people have families coming in, so it's going to be a fun weekend for everyone."

Gudas said "growing up and playing outdoor hockey was the best thing ever, and now I get a chance to play an outdoor game that means something. In Germany, when my dad played there, they had a couple rinks that had no roofs. I was in first or second grade, and it was pretty cool. But this is going to be a different experience. I'm really excited, to be honest."

While a freshman at Union College, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere played in a night game at Fenway Park, a 2-0 win over Harvard.

"The biggest thing for me was maybe to take a second and look around. Cherish it," Gostisbehere said. "You're still focused on the game, but having an opportunity to play in Fenway Park was pretty awesome."

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald also played in a baseball stadium. While with the Islanders in 2014, his team lost to the Rangers, 2-1, at Yankee Stadium.

"The day before, we had a skate, and your family came to skate," MacDonald said. "Just to be on the field in such a unique atmosphere was just a great experience. And then game day, you had a long walk to the surface; it's really different because the fans aren't right on top of you. You're kind of isolated. It's like you're out on a stage away from everything."

MacDonald said you "try to treat it as just another game, but obviously you're going to look around at times and take it all in. But what it boils down to is that it's another game, and you have to prepare like you normally do."

That's the mantra Hakstol has been preaching. He wants his players to enjoy the atmosphere but not lose sight of what the game means.

"The bottom line is that it's an important hockey game and an important two points," Hakstol said.

scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull www.philly.com/flyersblog


February 24, 2017
 
 
 

 

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