–The forecast is predicting rain from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for tonight’s Outdoor Classic against the host Bakersfield Condors. Those running the show have decided to protect the ice from getting further damage, so no morning skates occurred at Bakersfield College. From 7 p.m. on there’s no rain expected, so that could be a good sign that the game could go off tonight as planned. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Reign haven’t even stepped on the outdoor rink, but head coach Mike Stothers doesn’t expect that to be an issue for his team.
“I don’t think it will have any effect at all really,” he said after today’s optional skate at Rabobank Arena. “You can say, yeah, you want to get used to the conditions, the ice, the boards and stuff like that. From all indications last night’s alumni/celebrity game everyone said the ice was good.
“It’s no different than any real game you play. It’s not your home building. Both teams will be somewhat distracted by the outdoor environment, the vastness of it and whatever elements we’re dealing with. I don’t think it’s that big a deal. We were more concerned with how this week went as far as getting some practices in and being able to go through everything that we were able to cover. And today was going to be an optional skate anyway whether it was an indoor game or an outdoor game.”
An adjustment period is expected though for many of the players who will be taking part in their first outdoor game in a stadium that holds 20,000 fans when at capacity.
“I think everyone’s going to have adrenaline going whether you’re the home team or the away team so it’s just a matter of going out there, trying to treat it like any other game,” veteran forward Brett Sutter said. “Enjoy the moment but at the same time we came here to win a game and our focus has to be the same as if we were going into any other road rink.”
The Reign (17-6-5-0) are 2-0-0-0 against the Condors (11-2-4-1) this season.
“The importance is the game itself,” Stothers said. “Anything up to that is just one of those many things you put aside and focus on the game.”
–Center Andrew Crescenzi will return to the lineup from a lower-body injury after missing seven games and last playing on Dec. 13 of last year. He played in the first 21 straight games of the season and has five goals and four assists.
“We’re going to put Cres back in. [Michael] Mersch is going back in. We’re obviously happy about those two additions to the lineup,” Stothers said.
“From both sides of the puck, we’ve really missed Cres on the penalty kill and faceoffs as well as what he brings as a veteran guy and that element to our fourth line. And then Merschy, he only missed a game but it’s hard to replace Big Mike. He does a lot of things well for us. It’s good to get those guys back. It’s just good to be getting healthier in what’s going to be a busy, hectic month for us. It’s a good thing. We’ll see how they go. Certainly in Cres’ situation and the length of time he’s been off it’s going to be tough but again it’s good for him to get in and there’s a couple days before we play again and we can get some practices in him again and get him feeling good.”
–Tonight will be Sutter’s 700th pro game, and what a game to hit the milestone in.
“Real excited,” he said. “Obviously seven-hundred’s one of those in-between milestones but it still gives you a lot of respect for those guys that play a thousand or fifteen-hundred games, seeing how much farther that is to go.
“It’s nice to have my family here on the road, which doesn’t get to happen very often but very cool, played with a lot of good teammates and friends along the way and staff and people that you have relationships with forever so hopefully got a few hundred left in me but it’s going to be a real cool way to spend it for sure.”
–Goalie Jack Campbell will make his 14th straight start. He’s gone 11-1-1 in the last 13. On the other side will be Laurent Brossoit, as reported by Condors TV on Saturday.
–The Condors will wear three different jerseys tonight, one for each period.
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) January 7, 2017