The Chicago Blackhawks host a familiar Western Conference rival Friday when the Vancouver Canucks come to the United Center. The two teams have had some memorable clashes in recent seasons, though some of the zip may be missing from this matchup.
Don't get me wrong: It certainly won't take much on the ice to fire up both fanbases. There are still a lot of holdovers from three consecutive playoff meetings from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
However, some of the steam may be missing from what has been a heated rivalry. Here are some telling factors heading into the contest Friday night.
Missing from Chicago's lineup, of course, is long-time Vancouver tormentor Dave Bolland. Is Marcus Kruger going to have the same irritating effect on Henrik and Daniel Sedin?
Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows won't be around to show off his biting skills, having suffered a broken jaw at the beginning of December. Defenseman Alexander Edler is also out with a lower-body injury.
Players like Adam Burish and Raffi Torres are long gone from the 'Hawks and Canucks.
On the other hand, there is plenty of dislike between the two organizations.
Kevin Bieksa is still in a Vancouver sweater. Duncan Keith still draws the ire of Canucks fans stemming from the elbow he laid on Daniel Sedin two seasons ago.
Friday's game could turn out to be a ho-hum affair. I wouldn't bet the farm on that, though.
At first glance, this is a meeting of two teams nine points apart in the Western Conference standings. Vancouver is seventh in the West with 46 points and has dropped the first two games of a road trip that ends Friday in Chicago.
I would caution the 'Hawks fans who believe that this is an easy contest. The Canucks will be challenged defensively with Edler and Ryan Stanton out of the lineup. They are limping into town on the heels of a 4-1 loss in Dallas Thursday.
However, this team has put together a really good month of hockey before this road trip. Vancouver had won seven straight to start December before losing a 3-2 overtime decision to Minnesota Tuesday.
As well as Antti Raanta has been in net filling in for Corey Crawford, the Canucks hold the advantage with Roberto Luongo. Luongo and his backup, Eddie Lack, have been outstanding for Vancouver.
While the Canucks' scoring output is nearly a point lower than Chicago's, the goalie tandem is surrendering just 2.32 goals per contest. If Vancouver coach John Tortorella opts to use Lack Friday, the Blackhawks will face a goalie who has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in nine appearances.
Chicago has been sitting at home waiting for the Canucks to arrive for action, having had two nights off after dispatching the Predators 3-1 in Nashville Tuesday. Jumping on a understaffed Vancouver blue line would be the first step in taking care of business for the 'Hawks.
Will Tortorella attempt to get chippy with Chicago in hopes of slowing its high-powered offense? If the Canucks are intent on upping the physical element, some ill feelings on both sides could boil over quickly Friday night.