- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

That the Washington Capitals won’t play in the 2010 Winter Classic became official Wednesday, but their participation in a potential game at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium remains to be determined.

The Caps visit Montreal on Nov. 28 to play the Canadiens, according to the NHL’s official schedule, but whether that contest will be played at Bell Centre or the former home of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise hasn’t been finalized. The Globe and Mail reported Monday the Caps could play at “The Big O” as part of Montreal’s centennial celebration.

“We talked about it [with the league] a little bit today, but we don’t know if that is going to happen or not,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “It is something that Montreal is working on, and it is probably 50-50 as to whether it is going to happen or not. … It sounds like a neat idea, but we’ll see how it develops and go from there.”

One game the Caps will not be a part of is the annual outdoor game, which will match the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 1 at Fenway Park. There have been reports that Washington was one of the teams considered for the NHL’s signature regular-season event, but the league — at the urging of television partner NBC — chose the Flyers instead.

“It sounds like they wanted a different matchup and they got it,” McPhee said. “Maybe our turn will come in the next year or two. It has become a special event for people, and we would have like to play in it, but we’re not, so we’ll focus on the other 82 games.”

The Caps open the 2009-10 season Oct. 1 in Boston, and they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the home opener two nights later. A challenging first two weeks also includes trips to Philadelphia and Detroit and a visit from the New York Rangers.

There are three stretches with four consecutive road games, but one is broken up by the 17-day Olympic break. The longest homestand of the season is five games from March 4 to 12. Maybe the toughest test in terms of travel is a group of seven road games in eight contests from Dec. 5 to 19.

One thing missing from the slate is a Jan. 1 home game, which will be the first time the Caps haven’t had one in a nonlockout season since 1989. Another oddity — Washington doesn’t play rival Pittsburgh until Jan. 21, and the Penguins don’t come back to Verizon Center for the first time since ending the Caps’ 2008-09 season until a Feb. 7 matinee.

“We’re going to play them four times — at least,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m more worried about Boston right now.”

Washington has home and road games against three Western Conference teams — Detroit, San Jose and Columbus. Despite the Olympic break, the Caps will have only 13 sets of back-to-back games, down from the 17 they had four years ago.

“One of the interesting things is when you are a team that is selling out now — we always used to push for our best nights, but we don’t have to do that,” McPhee said. “Every night is our best night now.”

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