Back at it: Ty Conklin preparing for third straight outdoor game

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Ty Conklin wont be able to give Pavel Datsuyk and Marian Hossa any advice about stick-handling on an outdoor rink. He doesnt even plan to tell Henrik Zetterberg or Nicklas Lidstrom how best to keep warm.

However, theres one thing the Detroit Red Wings goalie hopes to impress upon his teammates before the Winter Classic with all the spectacle and attention that will accompany an outdoor game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field, its especially important to focus on hockey.

I think what gets lost a lot of times is that theres actually two points available, Conklin said Monday on a conference call. You know, Chicago is not far behind us (in the standings) right now. They are not far back, and they are playing as good as anybody these days.

Thats going to be an important game, and its going to be an important two points, too.

Conklin can be forgiven if the novelty of playing outdoors has worn off just a little. Hes already been on the ice the only other two times the NHL has staged a regular-season game outside.

They were vastly different experiences.

The temperature was roughly -20 C when he started for the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003. It was closer to 0 C at Ralph Wilson Stadium when Conklins Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in a shootout on New Years Day.

When the 32-year-old signed with Detroit over the summer, he had no idea that it meant another outdoor experience was coming.

Somebody mentioned to me, You know theyre in another outdoor game? said Conklin. It didnt even cross my mind.

Either I follow it around or it follows me around I dont know which is which.

Even though Conklin has previous outdoor experience, he wont lobby coach Mike Babcock to get the start at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1. He began the season as Chris Osgoods backup and has been seeing more action of late.

The Red Wings are his fourth different NHL team since leaving Edmonton two years ago and Conklin feels hes found a good fit.

In our locker-room, nobody is asking the goalies to stop everything, he said. Nobody is asking them to steal games. ... People have the same expectations for goalies they do a player, just to play hard and show up every day and play well and do what youre supposed to do.

You dont have to step outside yourself too much. It makes it a lot easier to perform.

The organizations winning tradition continues, but the Red Wings are being pushed by the upstart Blackhawks more than in the recent past. Chicago is only five points behind Detroit in the Central Division and holds a game in hand.

That close battle should add a little more spice to the Winter Classic.

Even though Conklins bounced around a fair bit, hes working on a streak that is even more impressive than his string of outdoor game appearances hes been in a conference final every year since the lockout: Edmonton (2006), Buffalo (2007) and Pittsburgh (2008).

Organizations: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, NHL Edmonton Oilers Montreal Canadiens

Geographic location: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Detroit Edmonton Commonwealth Stadium Ralph Wilson Stadium Buffalo Pittsburgh

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