With a high wind warning in effect for most of the region through Friday afternoon, including gusts reportedly up to 60 mph, the Washington Capitals’ and Toronto Maple Leafs’ practices in Annapolis have been canceled ahead of the teams’ outdoor game Saturday. That means the first time players will get a feel for the rink at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will be at a morning skate before the 8 p.m. puck drop.
“I think they’re going to disassemble the boards and what have you, just because of the high winds that are possible,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Thursday. “We’ll skate [at the practice facility], and then we’ll head there later in the night.
“It’s the same for both teams. … It’s an equal playing field. It’d be nice to get out there once. I think the league would like us to skate on the new ice. And also everything just looks different, especially for the players. The depth perception is a little different because you’re used to people right up against the glass.”
The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and 44 degrees at puck drop Saturday night. The pregame events include a fan festival that starts at 2 p.m. The gold medal-winning U.S. women’s hockey team will be in attendance, signing autographs and taking part in various skills challenges from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
“Never played in wind before,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said. “I wouldn’t assume it would change the puck trajectory or anything. Maybe dump-ins or high flips, things like that. Maybe your eyes if it is really windy, if it’s going right in your face the whole time to keep your eyes open and not be squinting. I have no idea. … They’re so good now, the rink crews, at putting them together that they’re pretty true. [At the 2015 Winter Classic], it was good to get out there [early] because you could test the shadows out, test the glare, but the lighting this time should be similar to an arena at nighttime.”
Wilson leaves practice early
For the second time this week, forward Tom Wilson left practice early Thursday after consulting with the Capitals’ head trainer. Trotz downplayed the situation and said he expects Wilson to play Saturday night. The 23-year-old is enjoying a career season with 11 goals and 17 assists, playing on a top line with center Nicklas Backstrom and captain Alex Ovechkin.
“It’s not even an injury, but it’s an irritant,” Trotz said. “I just said, ‘If it’s bugging you, we’re going to skate tomorrow, so don’t aggravate it anymore.’ He’s just changed over skates and stuff like that. It’s something that’s more aggravating. He’s fine. He’s 100 percent.”