The 2020-21 NHL season looks and feels a lot different than what hockey fans are used to watching.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to make several changes, including a shortened 56-game schedule that features only divisional matchups, a revamped playoff format and lots of health and safety protocols for teams to follow closely.
One aspect of the regular season that remains is outdoor games. Whether it's the Winter Classic or another outdoor event, these games are some of the most exciting and picturesque sports scenes each year.
The league isn't staging a Winter Classic in 2021, but it will have two outdoor games at Lake Tahoe this season. One of those games features the Boston Bruins playing against their East Division rivals the Philadelphia Flyers.
The matchup is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
There won't be any fans in attendance, but given the state of the sport and the world right now, players on both teams are just thankful that these games are still able to take place.
"With everything that's going on, everyone should try to find the best way to stay sane and do the things they love to do. Fortunately, we are allowed to play right now and continue to play hockey and do our jobs," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. "It does kind of tie it all together, being able to have these games played right now and also do it outside.
"The outdoor games are something we all look forward to every year. They're a lot of fun and guys get excited about them. They're probably one of the guys' favorite memories when they played is being able to play in these games. To still be able to make it happen and find a unique scenario where we don't have fans but it can still be special out at Lake Tahoe and having that scenery and that view, having a place like that is pretty special. It's great they're able to tie it all together and still make it happen. The fans will love to watch it, we'll love to play in it, and it should be fun."
Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk is no stranger to outdoor matchups. He's played in two Winter Classic games, including the Bruins' overtime win against the Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010.
"These events are always super memorable," van Riemsdyk said Tuesday. "It's nice that we're able to still do something like this. I think it fits perfectly for what everyone is going through as far as in the world and keeping things safe and being outside. I think it's going to be a great scene."
The Bruins are off to a terrific start this season with a 6-1-2 record through nine games, including a pair of wins over the Flyers at TD Garden last month. The B's will be aiming for their third outdoor game victory in franchise history when they battle the Flyers at Lake Tahoe later this month.