NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman announced the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in May. In September, the NHL officially partnered with HBO to bring the road to the outdoor game to television sets. The miniseries, "24/7," premiered in mid-December, about a week before the Caps and Pens met for the first time.
The preparation and hype is over.
The Capitals and Penguins will face off Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in the 2011 Winter Classic.
Inclement weather postponed the start of the game from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. Weather forecasts predict rain throughout the afternoon hours in Pittsburgh, but the rain should subside by the late afternoon. None of the previous Classics, held in Buffalo, Chicago and Boston, were delayed in any way.
Regardless, the Winter Classic match-up between the teams comes just one week after their first meeting of the season, a 3-2 shootout win for the Penguins. Pascal Dupuis scored in the seventh round of the shootout to left the Penguins to victory.
Pittsburgh enters Saturday's game having won 16 of 20, including a 12-game winning streak that has propelled them to the top of the NHL standings. Sidney Crosby's 25-game point streak, tied for 11th-longest in league history, was snapped Wednesday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.
Meanwhile, the Capitals are just four points behind the Penguins in the standings despite their sub-.500 December, their first losing month in over two years. Since snapping their skid, the Caps are 4-0-1 with the one loss coming by the hands of the Penguins. Alex Ovechkin has scored in back-to-back games for the first time since December 4-6.
The rivalry between the two teams has a rich history, long before Crosby and Ovechkin entered the league. The Penguins and Capitals have met in the playoffs eight times with Pittsburgh prevailing in all but one of the series. Coincidentally, three of the teams' combined five Stanley Cup Finals appearances have come in years where they have met in the postseason.