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Penguins excited to play outside in Chicago

PITTSBURGH -- Although the Penguins have been involved in two previous outdoor games -- playing in Buffalo in the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008 and hosting the Winter Classic at Heinz Field in 2011 -- there was still excitement voiced about the opportunity to take part in another outdoor game, this one March 1 in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Defenseman Paul Martin grew up in Minnesota and playing outdoors was part of his childhood.

"It takes you back. For me, I grew up skating on the pond," he said.

Martin took part in the 2011 Winter Classic as a member of the Penguins and is looking forward to the Chicago event.

"Definitely, we all enjoyed it," he said.

Penguins president David Morehouse told ESPN.com these events are important especially after the lockout.

There has to be a greater emphasis on marketing the league "and how we project the game," Morehouse said.

"We have to be less of a tribal sport and more of a broader sport, where people watch games just to watch the games, not just their teams, and I think these kinds of things help that," he said.

Because the Olympic tournament is dominated by NHL players, Morehouse also likes that the Chicago game will follow the end of the Olympic tournament, and perhaps act as a catalyst toward keeping the casual fan who might have been following the Olympics to stick with the NHL game.

"I think as we're trying to broaden and expand the brand and get more and more casual hockey fans to be deeper and more energetic hockey fans, these are the kinds of things we're going to have to do," Morehouse said.

"I think we're enthusiastic about these types of events and we’ll always say 'yes' when we're asked," he added.

Experience issues

One of the key storylines of the Islanders-Penguins series will be the lack of playoff experience in New York's lineup. Sixteen Islanders available to play in this series have never played in an NHL playoff game, including key personnel John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Josh Bailey.

But one player who has been down this road a few times is netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who leads the team with 80 postseason appearances.

His importance to the club and the Isles ability to stay close against the heavily favored Penguins cannot be overstated.

"I think with Nabby, he's an extension of your coaching staff," head coach Jack Capuano said Wednesday.

"He's a guy that can settle the room down. I know over the last couple of days we've had some real good meetings with our hockey club and he's been pretty vocal about his experience, along with a few others," the coach said.

Nabokov played in 41 of 48 games for the Isles this season.

"It's a long series, and the one thing I think that Nabby will tell you there's no panic no matter what happens. There's going to be surges, there's going to be momentum throughout the course of the game and throughout the series," Capuano said.