The biggest issue facing the Caps and Penguins at tonight’s Winter Classic is the condition of the ice. The weather has improved dramatically since this morning so that helps. But Friday’s warm temperatures and direct sunlight didn’t exactly help matters. That combination of heat and water is going to hurt – no matter how hard Dan Craig – the NHL’s facility operations manager – and his crew work. So what are league officials looking for when they check the ice surface?

“It’s the consistency and how [the ice] is solid,” Craig said in a pregame interview with NHL Network. “Because it’s really softened upon us with the amount of water that we had out there...[The rink] is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide and every inch counts out there.”

So even with all the talent on the ice tonight between these two teams I probably wouldn’t expect any incredible goals or highlight-reel passes. This is a grinder’s game and the players know that and will adjust accordingly.

“I don’t think there will be crisp as play as usual. I think it’ll be more plays where the puck will bounce on you,” said Caps forward Jason Chimera. “It’s better for me and guys like [Matt Hendricks], guys around the corners, to get goals that way. Maybe Sid and Ovi will have a disadvantage the way that they play. Maybe it’ll be better for us. I don’t know.”

Defenseman Mike Green is one of those gifted stars that may have to switch things up tonight. He and Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang (six goals, 26 assists) like to use their wheels. Their speed could be neutralized tonight.

“Every other player is out there on the same ice surface so I just have to adjust just as much as they do,” Green said. “But I just have to move the puck quicker instead of skating…I’ll be curious to see what happens when the puck goes above the line of the boards, what it will be like.”

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