Frostbite – A Winter Classic Preview

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 01: Tim Connolly /

The Buffalo Sabres will make their second appearance in a Winter Classic. This time, the New York Rangers will host Buffalo at Citi Field.

The first Winter Classic should never be forgotten among Buffalo Sabres fans. The atmosphere was incomparable at Ralph Wilson Stadium back in 2008. Regardless of the fact Pittsburgh Penguins’ playmaker Sidney Crosby won it in a shootout, the entertainment value remained priceless.

Fast forward 10 years later with a completely revamped squad; Buffalo find themselves in another outdoor game.

Buffalo’s clash with Pittsburgh was a learned lesson for the NHL, as the game had to be stopped numerous times to compete with the snowy conditions. It shouldn’t be the same in this one as temperatures are expected to peak at 22 degrees with sunny conditions.

The Swords may not be looking good when playing, but at least they’ll be rocking some sublime uniforms come New Year’s Day.

The jersey features an “NY” patch that represents the New York contest being played. The club’s website notes that the jersey took some inspiration from the concepts of the 1970’s:

"The shoulders and collar are contrasted in blue, which is in line with many of the team’s past white uniforms, and the collar is executed in a modern adaptation of sweater knit rib material. The blue throughout the uniform has shifted from the Sabres’ current navy blue to a royal blue reflective of the team’s original color scheme from the 1970s. The jersey striping was inspired by the team’s 40th anniversary uniform."

The new jersey may be one of the more exciting things for Buffalo this season. Sadly, the Sabres sit dead last in the Atlantic Division and look fairly certain to stay there for the rest of the campaign.

However, at least Buffalo seem to be in decent form recently. Phil Housley‘s men edged out an impressive New Jersey Devils team the other night, as Jack Eichel notched his 15th goal of the campaign.

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Even though the Sabres are pretty much out of playoff contention at the midway mark, this game should still be taken seriously. Buffalo have a good amount of talent to compete with the Rangers.

The big four in Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville have been the most notable players of the season. Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella have added to their point tally on the defense.

Yet, the Buffalo Sabres obviously have their weaknesses. All-around depth has been an issue this season to go along with the struggling goaltending duo. The combination of effects results in Buffalo’s poor performances. The Rangers definitely are aware of the struggles, and will likely look to exploit them for the whole 60 minutes.

Speaking of the Rangers, playing outdoors is nothing new to them. New York has featured in four outdoor contests, including one all the way back in 1991 against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.

Henrik Lundqvist looks to have returned to his “King” status that Ranger fans have accredited to him in his career. The Swede is also a veteran to the outdoor rink. Lundqvist made a critical save on Daniel Briere in 2012 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Aside from Chris Krieder, out for the game due to blood clots, the Rangers are healthy and continuing their push for the postseason. Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad provide most of the scoring for New York, while Ryan McDonagh stabilizes the defense.

However, the Rangers have dropped three of their last five games. If Buffalo can find a way to expose New York’s form, they can walk out of Citi Field with the two points.

The difference between the two clubs is crystal clear. New York is hunting for the playoffs, while Buffalo is in the hunt for the top pick in the draft. The Rangers playing with more of an urgency should be expected, especially since they’re the home team.

It should be a great game. The Winter Classic is always something to look forward to which is nice, considering how much Buffalo has dipped this season.

But, Buffalo Sabres fans might go out of the Metropolitan area with their heads down yet again. If need be, Sabres fans can remember the Buffalo Bills finally made the playoffs again.

Prediction: Rangers 3-1 Sabres

Catch the game on NBC on New Year’s Day at 1 PM (ET). Hope for the best for the Sabres!

Next: Housley’s offensive d-man system not working in Buffalo

Who wins the 2018 Winter Classic? Any Buffalo Sabres players that you can predict will steal the show? Let us know in the comments below.