NEWARK, N.J. – There won't be a blade of grass in the outfield. There will, however, be iconic New York City taxi cabs.
The NHL is continuing to transform Citi Field as the Winter Classic approaches. The rink for the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers is in place on the infield. The league is now working on the surrounding areas, including the outfield and the section behind home plate.
"We are theming it to New York City streets, taxi cabs and everything that goes along with that," Steve Mayer, NHL executive vice president and chief content officer, told reporters in the stadium. "It's going to be amazing to see, and there will be no question from the look and feel of the game that it is being played in the city."
Real taxis are expected to drive around a grid of streets laid out in the stadium. The NHL promises the New Year's Day extravaganza won't look like anything fans of the host New York Mets have seen.
"I will invite anybody to find a blade of grass," Mayer said. "We cover every inch of the stadium and transform the stadium so that when people do walk in and they have their ticket – and even if they come to 50 Mets games a year – they are watching something that is completely different than anything that they have experienced at Citi Field."
The entertainment continues to expand. The Goo Goo Dolls were previously announced as the act for the first intermission. They will be joined by Max Weinberg and Ace Frehley.
Weinberg rose to fame as the drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and was elected to the Rock & Rock Hall of Fame in 2014. He and his quartet – known as Max Weinberg and Max Weinberg's Jukebox – will serve as the house band and perform throughout Monday's outdoor game.
Frehley is the original lead guitarist for KISS. He will perform his song "New York Groove" before the Sabres and Rangers take the ice. That's one of the few links to baseball as the tune blares through Citi Field following every Mets home victory.
New York policemen and firefighters will serve as the color guard. The national anthem will be performed by New York's Every Voice Choirs and will feature children born in 2008, the year of the original Winter Classic held in Buffalo. Four F-15 aircraft from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina will do a flyover, and a bald eagle will take flight.
Oh, and the game will be played at 1 p.m, too. It's expected to be sunny and 21 degrees.
"We'll be ready to play hockey on Monday," Mayer said. "Everything is ahead of schedule. The weather in New York has been excellent. It's a little cold, but we are used to that. When we do one of these outdoor games, we are prepared for these things."
As the Sabres prepared for Friday's road game against the New Jersey Devils, they did so without Phil Housley. The coach skipped the workout in Prudential Center because of illness.
Associate coach Davis Payne ran the practice.
The Sabres' penalty killers went 2 for 2 during Wednesday's loss to the New York Islanders. It was their sixth perfect outing in the last eight games.
Forward Johan Larsson credits the players' familiarity with each other. The Sabres primarily use Larsson, Benoit Pouliot, Jacob Josefson, Ryan O'Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons up front, along with defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Jake McCabe, Justin Falk and Zach Bogosian.
"We keep the same pair, so you kind of know which guy you go with and you read off each other," Larsson said. "We talk about scouting their plays, but in the end you've got to make reads out there. That's one thing, then you've got to be willing to block those shots and be in the lane."
Buffalo certainly has a challenge ahead. The Devils lead the Metropolitan Division with a 22-9-5 record. They are closing a six-game homestand, and they've won the first five games.
They want to go 6-0.
"It’s important for us,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “The last two games, we’ve played some good segments, but there have been some lulls in our game and some details we think need to be better. We want to finish off strong."
Story topics: phil housley