(SportsNetwork.com) - Four years ago the Washington Capitals participated in a Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, but Alex Ovechkin and company will get to host the New Year's Day outdoor contest for the time when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 edition at Nationals Park.
The Capitals can become the first team to earn two Winter Classic victories on Thursday. Washington beat the Penguins, 3-1, at Heinz Field in 2011, with Eric Fehr scoring two goals to lead the Caps to victory.
Today's battle among the elements also marks the second Winter Classic appearance for the Blackhawks, who lost to Detroit, 6-4, at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2010.
Chicago and Washington join the Penguins, Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers as the only two-time participants in the Winter Classic. The Blackhawks will be playing in their third outdoor game overall, having also hosted an NHL Stadium Series game at Soldier Ford on March 1 of last season. Chicago routed the visiting Penguins, 5-1, in that contest.
The Winter Classic is one of two outdoor games on the NHL docket for this season. The other one is a Stadium Series clash between Los Angeles and San Jose on Feb. 21 at Levi's Stadium, home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
More than 40,000 fans are expected to be in attendance for today's battle at the home of Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals and the Caps are hoping to give the hometown crowd something to cheer about.
When it comes to the Capitals, all eyes are usually on Ovechkin, the club's superstar winger, but Fehr is getting his share of the attention in D.C. at the moment thanks to his memorable two-goal performance in the 2011 Winter Classic.
"Any fan that talks to me, generally that's the first thing they say, is thanks for the Winter Classic," Fehr recently told the Washington Post. "They say thank you, like I did something. It's kind of funny."
The 29-year-old Fehr has 10 goals and five assists in 33 games this season, and he is hoping to add to those numbers by grabbing the spotlight again on Thursday.
Washington had a strong December, as it recorded at least a point in 11 of 13 games by going 8-2-3 during the month. However, the Caps have lost two of three heading into the Winter Classic and are coming off Monday's overtime loss against the New York Islanders.
The Caps went 1-1-1 on their three-game road trip and lost the finale at Nassau Coliseum by a 4-3 count after Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk buried a slap shot less than three minutes into the extra session.
Boychuk's goal came just seconds from the end of a four-minute power play New York received after Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov was whistled for a high sticking double-minor late in the third period.
Although they lost in OT, the Capitals were glad to come away with a point. Washington was down 3-0 before scoring three consecutive goals in the third period. Ovechkin tied it the with 2:41 left in regulation, scoring on a wrist shot for his 17th goal of the season.
Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Capitals, while Braden Holtby stopped 35 in the loss.
Holtby is expected to start today against Chicago No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford. Holtby is 2-1-0 with a 3.28 goals against average in his career against the Blackhawks, while Crawford has a lifetime 2-2-1 record and a 3.62 GAA in this matchup.
Chicago will aim for a third straight win today, as the Central Division leaders are coming off recent wins over Colorado and Nashville. The Blackhawks scored five goals in each victory, beating the Avalanche 5-2 on the road this past Saturday before recording a 5-4 shootout win Monday against the visiting Predators.
Like the Caps did in their last game, the Blackhawks needed to dig themselves out of a hole to get Monday's test to overtime. The difference is Chicago was able to win the game after captain Jonathan Toews registered the only goal of the shootout.
Chicago rallied from 3-0 down to tie the game in the second period, but the Blackhawks would need another comeback to push the game to an extra session. Nashville's James Neal put the visitors ahead 4-3 with a power-play tally in the final minute of the second and the score stayed that way until Bryan Bickell tallied for the Blackhawks with Crawford pulled in favor of the extra attacker.
Bickell's goal was his fifth of the season and tied the contest at 4-4 with 1:13 remaining in regulation.
Brad Richards, Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa also scored in regulation for Chicago. Crawford turned aside 36-of-40 shots in regulation and overtime before stopping all three Nashville attempts in the shootout.
"We've been in a lot of situations over the years where we know that we're never out of it," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
Washington hopes to continue its recent success against the Blackhawks, as the Caps have claimed two straight and five of the last seven games in this series.
On the injury front, Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik expects to be a game- time decision with an injured right knee. For Chicago, defenseman Michal Rozsival is expected to play after sitting out Monday's game with a lower-body injury.
The game is scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m. ET, but there is a chance the start time could get pushed back if sun glare becomes a problem.