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NHL’s Stadium Series games at Metlife Stadium increases total to 41 played outdoors

NHL: Stadium Series-Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils

Feb 17, 2024; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13) and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (14) pose for a photo of the puck drop from retired NHL player Martin Brodeur in a Stadium Series ice hockey game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The two Stadium Series games at MetLife Stadium this weekend increased the NHL’s total of outdoor games to 41.

Each of the four teams featured five players who previously played in a pro game in the open air.

“Outdoor experiences, it’s great,” said forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who was playing in his second outdoor game when the New York Islanders faced the crosstown-rival Rangers on Sunday. “It’s great for everyone, it’s great for the fans, but even for us it’s something that you’ll remember forever and you want to make the best out of it.”

Pageau’s first came while playing for Ottawa in the NHL 100 Classic on Dec. 16, 2007, which was tied for the third-coldest outdoor game in NHL history — just 13 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-10 Celsius) at the start. The temperature was a little nicer for Sunday’s game, 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) at the 3:48 p.m. start that was delayed about 45 minutes because of the sun reflecting on the ice.

Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier and Marc Staal each played in his fifth in a 6-3 loss to New Jersey on Saturday night, with Couturier appearing in all five with Philadelphia and Staal having played with the New York Rangers. Scott Laughton and Travis Sanheim each played in his second with the Flyers, while defenseman Egor Zamula played outdoors in a Western Hockey League game in 2019. Also, John Tortorella coached his third outdoor game.

For the Devils, Tyler Toffoli and Brendan Smith each played his third, and Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek and Ondrej Palat each his second. Lindy Ruff was also a coach in his third, including second as a head coach.

Rangers forwards Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin each played his third outdoor game when they faced the Islanders on Sunday, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson and forward Jimmy Vesey each his second. Peter Laviolette tied an NHL record by coaching in his fifth outdoor game, though he is winless so far.

Vesey and Zibanejad are the only remaining players left from the Rangers team that played in the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field, home to MLB’s New York Mets.

“A lot different to be at a stadium like this than a baseball field and the way it’s structured,” Zibanejad said. “The stadium makes the rink feel a lot smaller.”

For the Islanders, Matt Martin played in his third outdoor game, while teammates Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri were also each appearing in their second. Islanders coach Patrick Roy, in his ninth game since replacing the fired Lane Lambert, was behind the bench outdoors for the second time.

ISLANDERS-RANGERS RIVALRY

The Rangers and Islanders are meeting for the first time this season, an unusually late start to their four-game season series, especially after finishing a three-game series before Christmas last season.

“It’s uncommon, I feel like, that we wait this long to see those guys, and a big game for both teams,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “An opportunity for us and it’s always fun. There’s always extra juice, extra energy. The fans on both sides bring it, so I don’t think there will be any difference here. It’s going to be a fun one.”

The Rangers lead the Metropolitan Division by four points ahead of second-place Carolina. The Islanders begin the day in fifth place in the division and trail Detroit by five points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we need to get wins, we need to get these points,” said Islanders forward Bo Horvat, who was playing his first New York rivalry game nearly 13 months after he was acquired in a trade ahead of the All-Star break.

“Obviously, it’s been a rivalry for many years,” Horvat said. “They’re a good hockey team, and so are we. Obviously things are going to get heated and everybody’s going to be battling for a win, and we want to come out on top.”

Zibanejad echoed similar sentiments for the Rangers, adding: “Always intense games, and the crowd from both sides gets into it. ... It’s fun, it’s those type of games you want to play in. I feel like every team around the league in any sport, you have those rival games, and this is one for us. Hopefully we can make sure we remember this in a good way.”

OUTDOOR GAME RECORDS

The Rangers headed into their game against the Islanders with a 4-0-0 record in outdoor games. They beat the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia, had a 7-3 win over the Devils and 2-1 victory over the Islanders in Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime at Citi Field in the 2018 Winter Classic.

The Islanders will be playing in their second outdoor game, the first since that loss to Rangers on Jan. 29, 2014.

With their win against the Flyers on Saturday night, the Devils evened their record to 1-1-0 and dropped Philadelphia to 1-4-1.