NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, November 22nd (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (8-10-1-1) at Edmonton Oilers (10-7-2-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - It won't quite be a game of pond hockey, but the National Hockey League heads outdoors in the regular season for the first time tonight when the Edmonton Oilers invite the Montreal Canadiens to a sold-out Commonwealth Stadium for the Heritage Classic.
Over 56,000 are expected to attend the contest, which will be preceded by an exhibition featuring alumni of both the Oilers and Habs. The Edmonton club will be represented by the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Kevin Lowe, while Montreal's contingent will include Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe, Kirk Muller, Bobby Smith, Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau and Claude Lemieux, among others.
Gretzky, who has passed on "old-timers" events in the past, has not donned an Oiler sweater in any type of game since being traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles in 1988.
"This will be my last game," Gretzky said on Monday. "I just thought that probably it was only fitting that I play one more time and my kids had an opportunity to see me in an Oiler uniform."
After receiving special permission from his current and former coach, Glen Sather of the NY Rangers, Messier will join Gretzky on the ice and partake in the contest. Sather, who built Edmonton into a five-time Stanley Cup-champion, will also be there coaching the Oilers alumni.
Participants in the Alumni Game can account for 129 engravings on the Stanley Cup.
As for the actual matchup between the present-day Oilers and Canadiens, we will get a chance to see how the NHL game translates when the elements interfere. Although weather forecasts call for a clear day, the temperature is expected to reach only a high of -9� Celsius -- 16� Fahrenheit -- Saturday. Players will likely wear thermal underwear beneath their pads, and they will rely on heated benches between shifts.
Edmonton has won four straight heading into today's extravaganza, including Thursday's 3-2 win over the visiting Maple Leafs at newly-named Rexall Place. Ty Conklin made 31 saves, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mike York and Alex Hemsky each tallied. Hemsky and Bergeron each added an assist for Edmonton, which is 7-2-1 in home games this season.
York extended his point streak to six games, totalling three goals and five assists in that time.
Edmonton will head to the road and visit Columbus on Tuesday.
Montreal, meanwhile, has lost two straight (0-1-0-1) and is just 2-5-1-1 in the month of November. On Thursday, the Canadiens found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision in Calgary.
Craig Rivet tallied the lone goal for the Habs, while Jose Theodore allowed two goals on 32 shots. Mike Ribeiro assisted on Rivet's marker and extended his scoring run to six games (0g, 6a).
The Canadiens are now 3-5-0-1 on the road this season and will conclude a five-game trip tonight.
Edmonton defeated Montreal, 4-2, at Bell Centre on November 4 and has won five of six, and seven of the last 10 meetings. The Habs have lost four straight and five of their last six in Edmonton.
This evening's game will establish a new NHL attendance record, crushing the mark set on April 23, 1996 at the Thunderdome (now called Tropicana Field) in St. Petersburg, Florida. That day 28,183 watched the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The all-time attendance mark for a hockey game of any kind is 72,027 at the Michigan State-Michigan game in October 2001 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
11/22 10:40:13 ET