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Teams to switch ends midway through 3rd period of outdoor game

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NHL has made an adjustment to its
Winter Classic to equalize any advantage weather might provide
during the outdoor game on New Year's Day.

The league decided Saturday that the Buffalo Sabres and
Pittsburgh Penguins will switch ends midway through the third
period. If the game should go into overtime, the teams will switch
ends again at the 2½-minute mark.

Stiff winds earlier this week delayed the transformation of
Ralph Wilson Stadium into a hockey rink, and the NHL doesn't want
them to play a significant role in Tuesday's game.

"Because we're outside and not inside in a controlled
atmosphere, we want to make sure both teams have the same
opportunities," Don Renzulli, the league's senior vice president
of events and entertainment, said at the stadium Saturday
afternoon.

If the game goes to a shootout, the goalies will choose which
net they want to defend, creating a situation in which both teams
could end up shooting at the same goal.

The changes were formulated by commissioner Gary Bettman, the
league hockey operations, and both the Sabres and Penguins.

The wind usually blows from the west and then swirls inside the
stadium bowl. Last Sunday, gusts peaking at 50 mph wreaked havoc
with the initial phase of installing the rink on the football
field, but the league has since made up for the lost time. The
ice-making process is nearing completion, and crews were painting
the lines, circles and logos on the white sheet on Saturday.

The teams, also playing Saturday night in Pittsburgh, are
scheduled to practice in the stadium on Monday.