01/01/2015 11:36 EST | Updated 03/03/2015 05:59 EST

NHL: outside/inside on New Year's day

New Year's day and the spotlight and sunlight fall upon a pair of NHL games a continent apart. In Washington, in the great outdoors, the Capitals and Blackhawks play the NHL Winter Classic. Later Thursday, some 3,795 kilometres across the continent in Vancouver, the Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings indoors, at Rogers Arena.

Winter Classic: nostalgia or novelty

Whether you love the outdoor National Hockey League games because they evoke childhood memories of frozen ponds and backyard rinks played without a clock, or if you see these outings as a novelty where thousands sit in baseball and football stadiums and the teams battle each other and the elements, there's no denying that they hold widespread appeal.

On the first day of 2015 the Chicago Blackhawks (25-10-2)  and the Washington Capitals (18-11-7) face off at Nationals Park, home of the baseball Nationals, for the NHL Winter Classic. It is the second Classic for both these teams with the Capitals having won at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, 3-1 in 2011, while the Blackhawks dropped a high-scoring 6-4 decision in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings at Chicago's Wrigley Field. The win must have been blowing out that day.

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How popular are these outdoor matches? Popular enough to be broadcast in 160 countries led by national broadcasts on CBC, NBC and TVA in North America. Since 1975 five of the six most-watched regular season games in the NHL have been Winter Classics.

Each team comes into the game playing well. Chicago is 7-2-1 in their last 10 and posted a 10-2-1 mark for the month of December. They topped Nashville, 5-4 in a shootout in their last outing Monday.

The Capitals are 6-1-3 in their last 10, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders on Monday.

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Lots to look forward to in this one. It promises to be the second warmest NHL Winter Classic with temperatures in the low to mid 40's Farenheit, around 5-7 Celsius. Only the 2011 Winter Classic which reached 51 F, 10.5 C, was warmer.

The biggest question mark is will the sun affect the start time of the game. Washington defenceman Karl Alzner sported sunglasses in Wednesday's practice and may do so for the game.

A huge crowd. Sharpshooters Alex Ovechkin of the Caps and the 'Hawks scoring leader Patrick Kane. A Winter Classic.

Canucks host struggling champion Kings

In a far more typical atmosphere inside Rogers Arena the Vancouver Canucks (21-11-3) welcome the Los Angeles Kings (18-12-8).

It's the start of a five-game homestand for the Canucks who have a record of 3-0-1 in their last four games. Tuesday, they won 3-1 at San Jose with Radim Vrbata supplying the goal that put it out of reach.

Canucks' penalty-killers did a great job in December, killing off 34 of 36 penalties, including shutting down the potent Sharks.

The Kings are 0-for-2-for-Canada on a road trip, losing to both Calgary and Edmonton. That's five straight road losses for L.A. as they have only four road wins the entire season. Only Edmonton has fewer road wins.

L.A. forced Tuesday's game in Edmonton to a shootout before losing 3-2. James Quick was beaten by David Perron to decide that one.

Quick, however, is 4-1 vs. Vancouver in his last five starts, including a 5-1 win Nov. 8.