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Winter Classic 2015: TV Schedule and Full Preview for Blackhawks vs. Capitals

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVDecember 28, 2014

Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson (43) skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014. The Penguins won 3-0. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

This year's version of the Winter Classic hits the nation's capital, as the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks for outdoor supremacy on New Year's Day.

Nationals Park will be the venue, which has been turned into a frozen sheet of ice for millions to gaze upon. The baseball season is long gone, but the 18-11-6 Capitals are in the midst of a playoff push and will be searching for every point possible when they take the ice.

It may feel like much more than a regular-season game, but the points count just the same—and that should have both teams hungry enough to put on an exciting show.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know for the Blackhawks-Capitals showdown.

Winter Classic 2015: Blackhawks vs. Nationals

When: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Where: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

Start Time (ET): 1 p.m.

TV: NBC

Preview

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The outdoor games are a rarity in the NHL for reasons bigger than the difficulty of booking (and selling out) the venue. What tends to matter more than all heading into these matchups is the weather.

And although we're a few days out and the weather is unpredictable, things look promising. As The Washington Post's Jason Samenow reported, "Early indications suggest the weather will be just right."

The rain may not be falling and the temperature might be suitable, but the game cannot go on without the ground crew laying out the ice just right. Fortunately, NHL senior director of facilities operation Dan Craig reported things are all good, via NHL.com's Adam Vingan:

Right now we're in good shape. We're not quite at half an inch [of ice], very close to half an inch right now. Mother Nature has cooperated a little bit. She's dumped a lot of snow on us, made us really cold, had a lot of rain.

The people that live in this area definitely know the region. I'm hoping we don't have a day like today because it becomes a little bone-chilling with the rain, but on the ice-surface side, we're going to be good.

Now that the biggest variables are seemingly safe, we can focus on the matchup itself.

PAUL BEATY/Associated Press

Washington's offense has stayed potent in the first season of Barry Trotz's tenure, scoring 2.9 goals per game and ranking atop the league in power-play efficiency. But the Capitals go up against a Blackhawks team that has allowed a league-best 2.0 goals against per game.

The Caps' stats would suggest a special teams advantage, but that's not the case—Chicago has the league's best penalty kill, with a 90.7 percent kill rate.

Whether it comes via the special teams or elsewhere, an early goal would be well received for the Capitals in order to get on top early and set the tempo. 

More than likely, it will come down to Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin to do so. The two forwards man the first line for the Capitals and have combined for 25 goals, while Backstrom himself has assisted 25 times.

Of course, goaltender Braden Holtby and the Washington defense will still have to hold off Chicago's speedy core of forwards. If Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are held in check, Washington will have many more chances to push the tempo on offense.

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