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NHL says talk of Flyers in 2015 Winter Classic is premature

NHL is not providing details about next year's expected home game for Caps.

(Mel Evans/AP)
(Mel Evans/AP)Read more

IT IS NO SECRET that the Washington Capitals will host the 2015 Winter Classic. Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis announced the decision on Sept. 20 at his team's fan fest.

But with the NHL currently tied up in hosting its largest-ever game next week at Michigan Stadium, in addition to five other outdoor games this season, there hasn't been much time to look ahead to next season.

That would include determining an opponent to face the Capitals - or even a venue.

As such, the NHL said yesterday that any report that the Flyers would face the Capitals in the 2015 Classic is premature.

"Neither a venue nor an opponent has been determined at this point," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Daily News yesterday. "The opponent hasn't even been discussed in months."

A league source said the Flyers remain a possibility to skate outdoors on Jan. 1, 2015, as do the Bruins, but no determination has been made.

The Flyers have played in two Winter Classics, one at Fenway Park in 2010, and the one they hosted at Citizens Bank Park in 2012. Washington has played in one (in Pittsburgh in 2011), but Leonsis had been badgering commissioner Gary Bettman for his own.

There seems to be some hangup as to where the game will be played in Washington. Leonsis has been pushing for hockey within the District of Columbia's boundary at Nationals Park. However, the NHL does prefer the ease of laying out a rink in a football stadium.

This season, the league will play twice at Yankee Stadium, once at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, once at Soldier Field in Chicago and once at BC Place in Vancouver.

With gleaming, new Canadian Football League stadiums, Winnipeg and Ottawa also are expected to host outdoor games soon. For now, it's too early to pencil in the Flyers for another trip.

Milestone month

With his assist in the first period of last night's game against Minnesota, Scott Hartnell notched the 500th point of his NHL career. Hartnell, 31, skated in his 900th career game on Dec. 7 in Dallas.

Hartnell is now one of only 50 active players in the NHL with at least 500 points in his career. Teammates Kimmo Timonen (547 points) and Vinny Lecavalier (889) also hit the plateau.

If Hartnell remains as durable as he has been throughout his career during the final 5 years of his current contract, he will be second in games played (925) in Flyers franchise history - behind only Bobby Clarke (1,144).

"It's been a great ride so far. A great career, a great life," Hartnell said. "Playing in the NHL is the best job in the world. This win makes our Christmas break all that more special."

The NHL has a league-mandated holiday break from games, practices and meetings from Christmas Eve through Dec. 26. Hartnell, the youngest of Bill and Joy Hartnell's clan, will travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to spend the holidays with his brother, four nieces and one nephew.

Blue-line jolt

To hear coach Craig Berube explain his system in a nutshell, he wants the Flyers to create offense from defense. Last night against the Wild, the Flyers' defensemen were directly involved in the offense.

Luke Schenn opened the scoring for the Flyers only 1 minute, 52 seconds into the game with his third goal of the season. Schenn is now on pace for seven goals, which would best his career high of five, set in 2010-11.

Braydon Coburn nearly netted a goal in his second consecutive home game, but the puck was redirected by Claude Giroux for a second-period power-play goal.

As a whole, last night marked the fourth time in five games the Flyers received scoring help from their blue line. As many defensemen have scored recently for the Flyers - Erik Gustafsson, Schenn, Coburn, and Mark Streit (twice) - in that time frame than have not (Nick Grossmann, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill). Earlier this month, the Flyers ranked 29th in scoring from defensemen. They trailed only Buffalo, which is on pace to set an NHL low in total goals for a season, possibly even topping the awful 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers.

Very clearly, more blue-line involvement is something Berube has been preaching. With so many skaters willing to sacrifice their bodies in shooting lanes, it's often the only way to score consistently.

"Us defensemen, we have the green light to jump into the play when the time is right," Schenn said. "I think every defenseman makes a conscious effort. We are always trying to shoot the puck and it's nice that one finally goes in and pays off."