Five observations from the Winter Classic between the Predators, Stars
DALLAS – Predators players arrived at the Cotton Bowl wearing all-black suits Wednesday morning, an ode to Johnny Cash.
They soon changed into their work gear – special Winter Classic sweaters and helmets and pants – for the first outdoor game in the history of the franchise.
Players from the Predators and Stars made their grand entrance onto the ice together, walking down a long ramp leading to the ice, which miraculously was playable after essentially being reduced to a puddle Saturday thanks to rain, humidity and high temperatures.
Here are five observations from the Predators’ 4-2 loss, their third in a row, in the NHL’s only game on the schedule Wednesday.
First things first
Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis laid on the ice for a good two or three minutes, motionless near center ice Wednesday after taking an elbow to the head from the Stars’ Corey Perry less than three minutes into the Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.
Ellis' stick flew from his hands after the hit.
He was helped off the ice by three teammates and taken to a golf cart.
Perry was assessed a five-minute major for elbowing and was ejected from the game.
"Hopefully it's not too long," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of how much time Ellis might miss. "But he got banged up pretty good."
The Stars also were awarded a penalty shot during the period, and, later in the first, Austin Watson hit Blake Comeau, who hit his head on the ice after falling.
Ellis did not return, forcing the Predators to play five defensemen. Losing him for any length of time could be devastating for the Predators.
Ellis (28 points) is second on the team in points behind Roman Josi (39).
"That's the kind of headshot you're trying to get out of the game," Josi said. "He's shooting the puck and he gets him in the head. I thought it was really, really bad hit."
They’re No. 2
Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, and 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams dropped the ceremonial first puck in front of an announced crowd of 85,630, the second-largest crowd for an NHL game behind only the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, where 105,491 saw the Red Wings play the Maple Leafs.
“The only complaints we’ve been getting is that it’s been too crowded,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “In this business you’ll take that. … There’s been a pretty good game going on and clearly players came out energized.”
Bettman also announced that next year's Winter Classic will be held at Target Field in Minneapolis, with the Wild as the host.
They have the power
The Predators scored two power-play goals during the first period Wednesday, the fourth time this season they've scored more than one in a game. Matt Duchene and Dante Fabbro scored for the Predators.
Nashville entered the game with the eighth-worst power play at 15.9%.
The Predators, who entered with the fourth-worst penalty kill, also allowed two power-play goals. They are tied for last place with the Blackhawks in the Central Division with 42 points.
Weather or not
Four days after having to essentially redo the entire ice sheet because it melted thanks to rain, high temperatures and humidity, Wednesday’s game began at 1:04 p.m. (CST). The temperature was 54 degrees with overcast skies and no sun.
"What's also interesting to see is a ton of green and yellow," Bettman said. "There are more people here in yellow than would fit in Bridgestone Arena."
The league estimated more than 20,000 Predators fans made the trip to Dallas.
There were two pig races during the first period, right next to the ice behind the Stars goal. Ro"Ham" Josi finished last in his race. And “Pork-a" Rinne didn’t fare well, either.
Ryan Jo"Ham"sen participated in the third race, which was held during the second period.
Reach Paul Skrbina at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.
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