<
>

2012 Winter Classic: One month to go!

What do you get when you mix two bitter rivals, one fiery coach and camera crews with unfettered access?

A whole lotta cursing and some damn good television.

We are one month removed from the 2012 Winter Classic, and there have been no shortage of storylines between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

Luckily, HBO's camera crews will descend upon both teams this weekend to chronicle their every step along the way leading up to the vaunted outdoor event on Jan. 2 at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.

And if this past Saturday's match between the two teams was any indication, the chasm between Broadway and Broad Street should provide fertile ground for some entertaining moments.

Said Rangers center Brian Boyle: "I think they got some good sound bites."

Some highlights so far:

Trash-talking: In a 12-minute teaser for HBO's "24/7," Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley was by far the most incendiary, calling his former Rangers teammate Brandon Dubinsky "a weasel." The 25-year-old forward, who led the Rangers in scoring last season, fired back two days later, blasting Shelley and belittling him as a "terrible hockey player." But Dubinsky didn't stop there; he also mocked Flyers antagonist Zac Rinaldo and called him an "idiot."

Plenty of punches: It hasn't just been verbal jabs traded, however. Fists were flying in the teams' first meeting -- a 2-0 Rangers win on Nov. 26 -- as Rinaldo and Brandon Prust dropped the gloves four seconds after the opening faceoff. Prust, who suggested the two kick off the rivalry in proper fashion, then went after Wayne Simmonds later in the period for his second scrap of the night.

Bad blood: The hatred between both clubs won't be staged. New York-Philly is among the most heated rivalries in sports, and hockey is not exempt. General manager Glen Sather made that clear when he gleefully taunted Flyers owner Ed Snider in a preseason press conference, guaranteeing a Winter Classic victory and Stanley Cup championship. The game that followed turned ugly, as well. Sean Avery, beloved bad boy in New York and scorned saboteur in Philly, said Simmonds directed a homophobic slur at him. Although video of the incident validated Avery's claim, Simmonds escaped punishment from the NHL for lack of evidence.

Pronger-less in Philadelphia: Forced to undergo knee surgery this week, Flyers captain Chris Pronger's status for the Jan. 2 game is in jeopardy. The hulking defenseman, one of the league's most vibrant characters, is expected to miss four weeks with the injury.

"Gauging off of when I had my other knee done a couple of years ago, a month sounds about right, but again, it may be three weeks, it may be six weeks, I don't know," Pronger told local reporters Thursday. "We just kind of gave a ballpark number because we don't really know."

Spotlight on Tortorella: The most compelling figure to watch throughout the reality series won't even play a shift in the much-anticipated game, but Rangers coach John Tortorella will undoubtedly be the huge draw. Tortorella's brash personality has many wondering: How will he handle dealing with cameras at every single turn, invading the sanctity of the Rangers' room? For a coach predisposed to colorful outbursts, he is likely to be the star, whether he likes it or not.

And on that note ... Dan Girardi wins high marks for his deadpan delivery in reaction to the ubiquitous camera crews -- the understated defenseman said paparazzi following him is nothing new -- but Tortorella steals the show in HBO's preview on his feelings about the access:

"They're a pain in the ass. And I hope you don't take that the wrong way."

Pause. Smile.

"But we really look forward to it."