Babcock solves the Classic curse

BySCOTT BURNSIDE via <a href="" title="SportCenter" class="espn_sc_byline">SPORTSCENTER </a>
December 31, 2013, 10:42 PM

&#151; -- ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock revealed his theory on why the visiting team has won all but one of the five NHL Winter Classics, mentioning the New Year's Eve dynamic in his own home as supporting evidence.

"Well, let's just go with what's going to happen in my house," Babcock said. "So my wife's maiden name is Dunham, and my kids say, 'Nobody parties like a Dunham.' So you can just imagine my house tonight. That's why a couple blocks down the road, I got myself a hotel room, because when 11 [o'clock] comes, they're not going to care that the Winter Classic is tomorrow.

"So the home team has won one game. We've gone through this with our players. They know. There is an opportunity in our schedule for you to have a heck of a New Year's Eve party on New Year's Day. Make a decision. But if you're counting on your family to do it for you, I don't like your chances. That's my theory."

For the record, Boston is the only team to win at home in a Winter Classic, with Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia all losing when hosting the event.

Howard gets the nod

Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal for Detroit, even though he struggled in his first game back after a knee injury in Nashville on Monday night.

"I don't even remember what happened [Monday] night," insisted Howard, who gave up five goals on 28 shots in a 6-4 loss. "Today was just about going out there and getting another practice and enjoying the whole festivities. It's going to be a lot of fun come tomorrow. It's going to be a great game."

If the loss and the impending announcement of the U.S. Olympic team on Wednesday following the Winter Classic were wearing on the goaltender, he did not betray such concerns as he tried to get skates on his young son after the Wings' practice. He said the whole team was pretty excited at their arrival at Michigan Stadium.

"You could tell as soon as everyone walked in here. It was a bunch of 13-, 14-year-olds in here," Howard said. "We were all excited messing around with our new stuff, the eye black, the winter hats and everything. Everyone's pretty fired up."

That's a lot of teeth

In the "ouch, that smarts" department, consider Dan Cleary, who lost 10 teeth during the Wings' loss to Nashville but eschewed going to a dentist so he could take in the pre-Winter Classic practice on Tuesday.

Cleary arrived home about 3 a.m. and didn't want to get up early to go to the dentist. He showed off the grisly remains in his mouth, including a tooth on the bottom right that had an exposed nerve. And on a very brisk, windy day, the cold and the nerve were not made for each other.

"The bottom over here has got a nerve exposed, so going the one way [against the wind], I just didn't open my mouth," he said.

Cleary was with the Red Wings when they defeated Chicago at Wrigley Field in 2009 and felt the conditions were a little more severe on this day.

"It was cold today," Cleary said. "It was a lot colder than Chicago, that's for sure; a lot more windy. The snow coming down is a factor on the ice handling the puck, which works for my game. We'll try and play north-south and have fun with it."

Does it get old, playing in another Winter Classic?

"No, are you kidding? It never gets old. I know a lot of guys first time were pretty excited for it. I know Bert for sure was," Cleary said referring to veteran teammate Todd Bertuzzi. "I think it was one of his bucket list dreams, was to play outdoors, so that's going to be great to see."

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