The Minnesota Wild will host Saturday’s Winter Classic, which is forecasted to be played in the type of conditions that one could expect to face in the state at the start of January.
Temperatures could be in the range of a high of minus-3 and a low of minus-15 for the matchup between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.
Wild forward Mats Zuccarello has a way to deal with the bone-chilling forecast.
“You just have to skate harder,” said Zuccarello, who will play in the second Winter Classic and fourth outdoor game overall of his NHL career.
His comments came during a media availability session on Tuesday as preparations continue for the New Year’s Day spotlight game. The faceoff is set for 6 p.m. for now, and the league intends to go forward with those plans, according to the league’s chief content officer Steve Mayer.
If the forecast holds, it has the chance to be the coldest outdoor game since the NHL started the events in 2003.
Mayer said of Saturday’s game:
"As with any outdoor game, weather is a factor. We clearly recognize that when we go to any venue. And as with any game, we’re monitoring the weather, and we’ll make decisions that are in the interest of our players and our fans, period.Every time we do an event, I can’t tell you when it’s going to snow. I can’t tell you when the sun’s going to shine. We had a lot of people here in Minnesota who told us also how tough a Minnesota fan is, and that was certainly a factor in coming here.”"
Wild coach Dean Evason was part of the Washington Capitals oaching staff for the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. It was a rainy and cool day, but as Evason noted, “but I don’t think it was as cold as it’s going to be here (on Saturday).”
Evason said the weather, along with the fans and the setting, added to the atmposphere of the game. He said there was a buzz that could be felt leading into the game, both inside and outside of the stadium that day.
“It’s not just another game, right?,” Evason said during his media availability session on Tuesday. “It’s completely different from any other game having said that, do we conduct ourselves any differently in how we play the game? No. that’s what we want to do.
“We want to be very consistent in how we play the game as the Minnesota Wild,” Evason said. “But lets embrace the difference. Lets embrace the excitement. Lets embrace the atmposhere and use that to hopefully generate energy..”
The game is the first for the Wild since a 7-4 loss to the Dallas Stars on Dec. 20, and Minnesota is winless in its last four games. The Wild remain in first place in the Central Division with 40 points and the Blues are tied with the Nashville Predators, just a point behind. It is the first meeting between the teams this season.
And while the Winter Classic special atmosphere, Zuccarelllo said the focus is on the end result.
“At the end of the day for us it’s a tough game against a tough opponent,” Zuccarello said. “You try and soak everything in (over the next few days) but once it’s game time, it’s game time..”