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Meteorologist steals Winter Classic spotlight

Sorry, Sid. You too, Ovie. You are merely supporting players.

Until the puck drops at Heinz Field — whenever that is — neither superstar is the Winter Classic's central figure.

The Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals might be the big names, but Dan Krzywiecki is the weather guy.

And weather is the hot — or wet — topic. The game, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, possibly faces the first delayed start in its four-year history.

Krzywiecki, Skywatch Weather Center's chief meteorologist, was calling Tuesday for one-third to one-half of an inch of rain, "which makes for a pretty wet day," he said. "When added to the ice surface, it could cause some potential problems."

Skywatch, which also handles weather monitoring and forecasting for the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins (in case of snow outside Consol Energy Center), is part of Air Sciences Consultants, a Bridgeville-based company.

Plenty of equipment is monitoring weather conditions at Heinz Field. But the big concern is the future. Despite all of the available technology, Krzywiecki is in the eye of a storm of uncertainty, if not worry. The problem: An approaching warm front might bring enough rain to push back the start of the game or cause a postponement until Sunday.

"It certainly adds to the NHL's burden when you have the possibility of fairly warm temperatures and the possibility of rain, which adds a whole new dimension to the problem," he said. "You're talking about the safety of the players."

As of yesterday afternoon, Krzywiecki said there is a 70 to 80 percent chance that temperatures mired in the 20s and low 30s for weeks will soar Saturday to about 50 degrees — well above normal. With that, he added, comes the same chance of rain.

The question is how much.

"I don't think you're going to see any deluge or heavy rainfall," he said.

Whew.

"But there's going to be an event that will wet things down," he added.

This has been the area's 10th-coldest December, Krzywiecki said. But he knew two weeks ago a "significant pattern change" would warm things up. "We were hoping it would be finished before the game," he said.

Now, the forecast says the warm front and the game likely will meet head-on, and that forecast "does appear to be on track," he said. "At this time, we're looking at potential rain beginning mid-morning, and with a little bit of luck ending mid- or late afternoon and (temperatures) turning a little bit colder. ... They may have the option of playing in the rain."

NHL officials said they are prepared to start the game as late as 8 p.m. Saturday. A decision might be announced by Friday.

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