WINNIPEG — Mathieu Perreault may be the lucky charm for the Winnipeg Jets in Sunday's Heritage Classic.
The veteran forward will play in his third outdoor NHL game, with two victories notched on his belt as the Jets take on the visiting Edmonton Oilers in the regular-season game.
"If I can go three-for-three, then I'll think that for sure," Perreault said after the Jets practised Saturday at the 33,000-seat Investors Group Field before Saturday afternoon's alumni game.
"I've only been on the winning end of it and it's just been awesome both times. It feels different than just a normal game."
The big space of the usual football stadium makes the rink kind of feel smaller, especially with the stands far away, he explained.
"But honestly, once the game starts and you're actually playing hockey, you kind of lose focus of what's going on outside," Perreault said.
The 28-year-old was with the Anaheim Ducks when they blanked the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the 2014 Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium. In 2011, his Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
New Oilers 10-year veteran Milan Lucic is feeling lucky to finally be playing in one of the league's showcase games.
Lucic was injured when his former Boston Bruins clipped the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. To make matters worse, there was no seat for him in the park so he watched the game from the dressing room with fellow injured teammate, and now Jets defenceman, Mark Stuart.
Lucic was then traded in June 2015 to Los Angeles, missing Boston's 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 1, 2016 in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.
"Hopefully, this experience makes up for missing both of those," he said.
The Vancouver native has never played hockey outside.
"Growing up in Vancouver, we had more puddles than we did anything else," Lucic said with a smile. "It's my first time getting to play an outdoor game as an adult, as a kid, anything, so for me I'm really looking forward to it. I'm like a kid inside getting my first chance to play outside."
It was the same for Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was born in Burnaby, B.C. The 23-year-old recalled the time he tried to make an ice rink in his front yard.
"It didn't work," he said. "It flooded it, it definitely didn't freeze.
"(Sunday) is an opportunity. It's definitely a cool experience."
Oilers captain Connor McDavid recalled his family making a rink in their small Richmond Hill, Ont., backyard one winter, but that was it.
"Then it was either we wanted a pool, my dad wanted a hot tub, and he got the deck and the hot tub," McDavid, 19, said. "That kind of put a dent in the whole backyard rink thing."
Fourteen players from both rosters, including those on injured reserve, have skated in an outdoor game. Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot has played the most with three, one with Montreal and twice for the New York Rangers.
Players from both clubs said the ice was a little rough and the glare from the sun made it a bit difficult to see the puck at times, but they'll be prepared.
Some may wear tinted visors, others tried out black strips under their eyes. Environment Canada's weather forecast for Sunday calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 9 degrees Celsius for the league's 19th NHL outdoor game.
Edmonton is rolling along to start the season at 4-1-0, while the Jets have won twice in overtime for their 4-2-0 record.
Four of the last seven games between the clubs, going back to January 2014, have gone to overtime. Winnipeg won twice in overtime and twice in a shootout.
"You can't try to do too much on a big stage," said Jets centre Mark Scheifele, describing the practice experience as "sweet."
"You've just got to keep it simple and play your regular game."