The Sabres turn their focus to Citi Field

December 30, 2017

Newark, NJ (WGR 550) - The Sabres had one more practice in Newark on Saturday before moving into Queens for the Winter Classic on Monday. Phil Housley hasn’t played outside since he was a kid, so coaching in this game will be fun for him, “Being a first time head coach and getting right into it, it’s pretty much a blessing for me.

“It’s going to be a great experience not only for me and the coaching staff but our players, management and their families, we’re going to take it all in.” Housley added, “It’s all that it’s wrapped up to be, you’re on the number one stage, everybody’s going to be watching and we just want to represent our organization and our fans in the best way possible.”

Benoit Pouliot is no stranger to outdoor games. He’s played two at Yankee Stadium, one in Calgary and one in Edmonton. The Sabres winger said, “It’s a good time, a good experience. I’ve been fortunate to play in a lot of them and its fun, the guys will enjoy it.”

One of the biggest things of playing outside is the temperature. Pouliot said one of the games he played in sticks out, “Calgary, by far. I think it was minus 40 degrees and every time you stepped on the ice, your visor would fog up and the boys didn’t mind coming back to the hot bench at all.”

I was wondering how you get your body to perform when it’s that cold. Pouliot said they did it, “You can, it doesn’t really change anything, the way you prepare or the way you feel on the ice, but you’ve got the heated bench and you take advantage of that and you get used to it pretty quickly.”

It had to be special to play hockey in Yankee Stadium as a member of the New York Rangers. Pouliot said, “I think it’s the best experience I’ve had outdoors. It’s huge, it’s New York City, the atmosphere is unbelievable, there was a little snow coming down too which made the scene pretty nice. The games in New York were my favorite ones.”

Because of the conditions, the players will have to simplify what they do. Pouliot said ice conditions dictate that, “You’re not going to have the best ice, that’s for sure. It feels like playing hockey outside when you’re young.

“They try to do a good job for it and make it as good as possible, but still, it’s minus 20 degrees out and the ice is not going to be perfect. It’s going to a little choppy and you just have to get the feel of it in warmup.”

What the players see off the glass and against a sunny sky is going to be different according to the head coach, “The depth perception is going to be important and just the ice conditions. The wind is going to play an important factor and we’re going to have to take all those factors into account.

“It’s good to bounce things off of people that have been there before and just try to gain some experience going into this game."

Housley said Ryan O’Reilly and Victor Antipin missed practice due to maintenance days. Housley worked them about 40 minutes before their families arrived from Buffalo.

The Sabres will take the ice at Citi Field on Sunday morning at 10. They get two hours to have practice and then have a skate with their families.