CHICAGO — Saturday night’s meeting between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field will not be new territory for both head coaches. Dan Bylsma and Joel Quenneville will be behind the benches for the second outdoor game of their head coaching careers.
Quenneville and the Blackhawks fell to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, while Bylsma's Penguins lost to the Washington Capitals 3-1 in the 2011 New Year’s game at Heinz Field. Now they'll meet one another under colder temperatures in a match-up of two of the NHL's best teams.
While both the Blackhawks and Penguins try to prepare the players for the elements as best as possible, what Mother Nature brings to Chicago when puck drops at 8 p.m. ET Saturday is anyone’s guess. Quenneville saw windy, but sunny conditions in 2009. Bylsma experienced warmer than normal temperatures and rain in 2011.
There's a threat of snow heading to the Chicago-area by Saturday night, along with the temperature likely dipping into the teens. Players will equip themselves with the proper gear to stay warm but also remain effective. But you never know how the ice conditions will play until the game settles in; and for Bylsma and Quenneville, it's a matter of preaching K.I.S.S.: keep it simple, stupid.
“I don't think we're going to change too much how we've played in the past, but the conditions seem fine out there," said Quenneville. "I think it should turn into a regular game. I think both teams are needing two points.”
As far as getting used to the surroundings, the Blackhawks did just that when they practiced outdoors Friday night under the lights. The players were able to get adjusted to seeing the puck at night, like goaltender Corey Crawford, who worked on picking up the airborne puck going through the Soldier Field lights.
Bylsma said he learned from the 2011 game versus Washington, where the ice conditions weren't ideal. In these outdoor games, between the cold, the ice, any precipitation, sometimes too much thinking gets involved.
"It really does need to be a little bit more of simplifying," said Bylsma. "And understanding that going into the game and having that expectation about how you're going to execute and what you need to do and then dealing with the elements.
"To overcoach I think it would be a mistake."
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