Stepping out of my hotel, it hit me like a blistering gust of wind that there wouldn’t be any issue when it came to maintaining the ice at Michigan Stadium. My teeth started to chatter as I pulled my coat up tightly around my neck and that’s when I realized. This is exactly how you’re supposed to feel at the NHL’s Winter Classic.
For two consecutive days, the Hockeytown Festival games have been delayed thanks to some uncooperative weather. Mild temperatures and harsh sunlight were the reason behind the latest setbacks in start times for the Ontario Hockey League games which were – eventually – played at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
But don’t expect the same for the 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The game, which will be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on New Years Day. All indications are that the game will get underway shortly after one o’clock without weather issues.
The Detroit Red Wings
Patrick Eaves, Henrik Zetterberg, and Jimmy Howard were all back in the lineup for the Red Wings on Monday night in Nashville. However, it wasn’t all good news for the red and white. Eaves seemed to miss his time with the big club scoring a no doubter on a pass from team captain and fellow returnee Zetterberg which gave Detroit hope against a surging Nashville Predator team.
Howard, on the other hand, had a shaky start for the Wings on Monday giving up five goals on 28 shots against. While there seems to be no question that Howard will get the start come Wednesday’s game at the Big House, his effort against the Preds certainly brings into question whether or not the former all-star is deserving of the big start.
While head coach Mike Babcock ponders his goalie situation for the upcoming outdoor game, another familiar name remained out of the lineup in Nashville. Daniel Alfredsson was once again missing from the Detroit lineup as he was a late scratch Monday with what the team is calling an upper-body injury.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
On the other side of the ice, the Leafs saw top-line centre Tyler Bozak make his return Sunday night against the troubled Carolina Hurricanes. But troubled or not, Bozak helped his mates to a 5-2 win including a career-high three assists in the game.
With their top line back together, head coach Randy Carlyle will have to look upon his second and third line for some secondary scoring. Nikolai Kulemin, who had a goal on Sunday, will be one of those players that Carlyle will expect more from moving forward into Wednesday.
Kulemin's sixth point in 11 games was his 80th goal as a Leaf.
— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) December 30, 2013
Like Detroit, Toronto will struggle to make the call between the pipes. With Jonathan Bernier playing the majority of the games thus far – and standing on his head while doing so – many fingers are pointing to the former Los Angeles King back-up as the guy to take the reigns.
But what will Carlyle do – go with arguably the hot hand in Bernier or reward his former starter and last year’s playoff leader James Reimer? With the game only a day away, expect the decision to come down soon. But either way, one goalie will be sitting at the end of the Toronto bench wish he was the one out on that ice.
Once the Classic is done you can use FanExchange to get the best prices on Toronto Maple Leafs tickets.
Questions or comments? Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewGForbes
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.