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Blackhawks, Red Wings ready for 'Winter Classic'

Detroit (24-7-5) at Chicago (20-7-7), 1:00pm, EST

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- With a slight chance of snow in the

forecast, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are set

for the third annual "Winter Classic" to be played at historic

Wrigley Field, home of Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs.

The forecast for Thursday's game calls for temperatures ranging

from 26 to 32 degrees and a 30 percent chance of snow.

More than 70,000 fans attending last year's game at Buffalo's

Ralph Wilson Stadium were treated to a "winter wonderland" as

snow fell intermittently during the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-1

shootout victory over the Sabres.

Heavy snowflakes were falling when the Penguins' Sidney Crosby

scored the winning goal in the shootout.

"I was in Buffalo last year, and it was a great event," said

Scotty Bowman, now a senior advisor for the Blackhawks.

"Everything fell into place. It snowed a bit more maybe than

they wanted, and it took a bit more work to keep the ice ready,

but being the first time, I thought they did a terrific job. It

was also maybe a bit cooler than they expected, but the players

adjusted and it ended up being a real terrific game."

The "Winter Classic" celebrates the game's roots as almost every

Canadian hockey player grew up playing the game outdoors on

frozen ponds or backyard rinks.

"It should be fun," Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk said.

"Everybody remembers what it was like as kids to play outside."

However, Thursday's contest is more than a novelty act as it

pits two longtime rivals battling for first place in the back

end of a home-and-home series.

In the opener Tuesday, the Red Wings blanked the Blackhawks,

4-0, in Detroit, ending Chicago's franchise-record nine-game

winning streak. It was the 700th meeting between the teams, the

most between any two clubs in NHL history.

Ty Conklin recorded 36 saves for his third shutout of the season

as the Red Wings pulled six points ahead of the Blackhawks in

the Central Division. Conklin improved to 6-0-0 in his career

against the Blackhawks.

"We keep saying (the Winter Classic) is just another game, but

obviously it isn't," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We

just have to use this game as motivation. We'll have to step up

our intensity and our discipline on Thursday. We've got to want

to win more than we did (Tuesday)."

The 32-year-old Conklin, who started in the first two "Winter

Classics", will be back in goal for the Red Wings on Thursday

because Chris Osgood is still nursing a sore groin.


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