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Sabres Notebook: Winter Classic documentary celebrates Buffalo; Josefson back

Like the game that it commemorates, the documentary about the original Winter Classic in Buffalo is filled with chills, highlights and compelling story lines. Also like the game, it has Three Stars.

The Third Star of NHL Network's "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" is Sidney Crosby. The Pittsburgh captain used the 2008 outdoor game against the Sabres as a springboard toward becoming a legend, and the film treats him as such.

The fans in Buffalo are the Second Star. The roar inside the Bills' stadium and the festival in the parking lot are captured well. The passion of Western New York sports fans is praised and revered.

As anyone who attended the game can attest, the weather was the First Star. It was a New Year's Day celebration held inside a snow globe, and the flakes created picturesque scenes, unexpected drama and a lasting impression.

Viewers can see for themselves soon. "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" will have a special screening at 6 p.m. Tuesday in (716) Food and Sport. The documentary will air nationwide at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NHL Network.

(A clip is available here.)

Plenty is packed into the 50 minutes of running time. Narrated by actor Michael Keaton, the documentary tracks the game from its creation to the building of the outdoor rink to the game-ending shootout and beyond.

"There was no denying the Winter Classic had the feel of a real event, the likes of which the sports world had never quite seen," Keaton says.

The NHL Network original film commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the game, and it digs deep:

* NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and executives from NBC Sports discuss how changes in college football bowl games allowed them a window of opportunity.

* Dan Craig, the NHL's vice president of facilities and operations, details the problems encountered in building the rink with a limited amount of time in less-than-ideal conditions.

* The cameras catch the ball-hockey games, bonfires and tailgating out in a true winter wonderland.

"There's loads of people already there, and we're there hours and hours before the broadcast," NBC announcer Darren Pang recalls. "I'm thinking to myself, 'This is really, really neat.'"

* Players such as Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell, Jason Pominville and the witty Colby Armstrong provide an in-depth look at the game itself, commenting on the action as they watch a replay of it.

* Announcers Bob Costas, Mike "Doc" Emrick, Rob Ray and Pang give their views along with reporters from Pittsburgh and Buffalo, including The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington.

* Cameras and microphones go inside the locker rooms, giving a behind-the-scenes look at pep talks and postgame hot chocolates.

"Everything kind of worked in our favor that day between the weather, the great crowd, the competitive game, having this young superstar really get to show his stuff at crunch time," says Jon Miller, NBC Sports' president of programming. "It was the perfect experience for us."


Jacob Josefson made an immediate impact the last time he returned from injury. He'll get another chance to do it soon.

The Sabres center practiced fully again Monday, and he could rejoin the lineup Tuesday when Buffalo hosts Boston.

Josefson skated in the middle of Evan Rodrigues and Jordan Nolan during the workout in HarborCenter. Josefson has missed nine games since reinjuring his ankle Nov. 25 in Montreal. He missed 15 games the first time he got hurt, then returned with a goal and assist in two games before departing again.

"It was tough to see him go down again," coach Phil Housley said of the eight-year veteran. "He's a smart player, and it's good to have him practicing."

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With Josefson likely back, Housley shifted Rodrigues to the wing. The forward played the position in college and Rochester before the organization moved him to center last season. Rodrigues has two goals and three points in six games after recovering from a broken hand.

"They've got a little bit of everything on that line, so that's why we moved him to the wing," Housley said. "I definitely think he could move up. He was off for a long time. He's trying to find his game right now. It's been good at times. He's got to find that consistency, but I really like the way he's been playing."

Jack Eichel centered Evander Kane and Jason Pominville on the top line. Ryan O'Reilly was in the middle of Benoit Pouliot and Kyle Okposo. Johan Larsson skated between Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart.

Scott Wilson and Hudson Fasching were the extra forwards, and the Sabres sent Fasching back to Rochester following the workout. He had no points in five games while skating 9:42 per night.

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