Kaprizov, Zuccarello ready for Winter Classic with Wild against Blues


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello aren’t strangers to outdoor hockey. 

Kaprizov, a 24-year-old Minnesota Wild forward, played several outdoor games for different teams in Russia, including one at a soccer stadium that will emulate Target Field in Minneapolis, where the Wild will play the St. Louis Blues in the 2022 Discover Winter Classic on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, TVAS, NHL LIVE).

“It’s obviously a great experience,” Kaprizov said Tuesday. “Overall, it’s a great atmosphere. It’s super special for the team, the fans, the players. 

“Depends though. When it’s really cold, it’s obviously very tough. But overall, it’s a great, fun experience and a lot of fun for everyone.

Kaprizov said he guesses he’s played in temperatures of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The low expected for Saturday is minus 20.

He said he’s ready for it.

“I think so,” Kaprizov said with a grin. 

The 2022 Winter Classic will be the third for Zuccarello (2012 and 2018 for the New York Rangers) and fourth NHL outdoor game including the 2014 Stadium Series with New York. He joined Wild teammates Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jonas Brodin, Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask for an outdoor skate at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville, Minnesota on Dec. 26.

Zuccarello was traded to the Dallas Stars by the Rangers on Feb. 23, 2019. He signed a five-year contract with the Wild on July 1, 2019.

“Being in New York for quite some time and to be able to play at those stadiums is for sure very special,” Zuccarello said. “Same here. I’ve been here now for almost three years, so it’s going to be special to play a game here in Minnesota, the State of Hockey. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

“For everyone around us, family, friends, fans, as well, it’s something big happening. At the end of the day, for us it’s just a game. A tough game against a tough opponent. You’ve got to enjoy it now these couple days with friends and family and then game time you want to try to win.”

The Wild (19-9-2) will play their first game since Dec. 20. They enter the Winter Classic 0-3-1 in their past four. 

“That’s not acceptable,” Zuccarello said. “We’ve got to get on a winning pace here. For us it’s a big game against a good team. We let everyone around soak it in and enjoy it, but for us it’s a big game.”

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