2012 NHL Winter Classic: 5 Items to Keep in Mind for This Year's Game

Roman Uschak@@RomanUschakCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2011

2012 NHL Winter Classic: 5 Items to Keep in Mind for This Year's Game

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers will face off on Monday in the latest version of the NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, just 10 days after the Rangers bested the Flyers by a 4-2 score at Madison Square Garden. This time, it's outdoors.

    After all the hype and build-up, right down to the respective unveiling of each team's commemorative jersey, here are some things to keep an eye on when the puck finally drops on Jan. 2 at the home of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies...

The Weather Could Again Be a Factor

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    David Duprey/Associated Press

    It probably won't be to the extent of 2008 in Buffalo, when snow flurries actually fell during the contest, or earlier this year in Pittsburgh, when rainy conditions pushed the start time back to nighttime.

    Ice guru Dan Craig and company will still be keeping an eye on the weather for Monday, though, which is calling for a mix of sun and clouds. Temperature highs are expected to be in the mid 50s, with lows in the mid 30s. Prior to that, conditions are expected to be rainy and windy.

    And if the ice is bad ...


Bad Ice Will Favor a Defensive Game

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    Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8) falls during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.  The Capitals won 3-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    It's a lot easier to hold up pucks than to move them along when the ice is subpar. If the playing surface gets brittle or choppy, it will hamper those players whose forte is skating, stickhandling and passing.

    It might also favor the Rangers, whose last line of defense is an already-capable Henrik Lundqvist.

The Game Should Be Close

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    Chicago Blackhawks' Andrew Ladd, right, battles for the puck with  Detroit Red Wings' Andreas Lilja during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game at Wrigley Field, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 in Chicago. The Red Wings dwon  6-4. (AP Photo/Nam
    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Three of the four Winter Classics played so far have been decided by one goal, with the exception being Detroit's 6-4 win at Chicago in 2009.

    With the Rangers currently just two points ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference standings in what has long been a bitter rivalry, odds are Monday should be a veritable dogfight for conference seeding.

    The away team has also won three of the four previous Classics, with Boston at Fenway Park in 2010 the only home team to come out ahead.

The Winner Could Go on to the Conference Finals

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The team that won the Winter Classic in 2008, 2009 and 2010 made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals that same year, only to come up short in the end.

    The team that wore the darker Classic jersey in that same span (Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston) went on to win the Cup the following campaign.

    It's a long NHL season after Jan. 2–but who's to say such things couldn't happen again?

More Cities Will Be Clamoring for Their Own Winter Classic

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    Members of the Philadelphia Flyers Alumni team, from the left, Bill Barber, Eric Lindros, Bob Clarke and coach Pat Quinn (standing) on the bench during the Winter Classic Alumni hockey game with the New York Rangers Alumni team, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 in
    TOM MIHALEK/Associated Press

    TV ratings should be very good in the United States, even though the game will again be competing with the traditional New Year's college football bowl games.

    Once the event is done, NHL cities that haven't hosted a Winter Classic yet will undoubtedly be calling (again) to follow Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in hosting their own in the future. Maybe even Newark, home of the New Jersey Devils (well, maybe not).