The Pittsburgh Penguins will meet the Detroit Red Wings in Hockey Town on Tuesday night. It will be the first of two meetings between the 2008 Stanley Cup finalists.
So, is this game a way for the Pens to exhibit some Stanley Cup revenge—or is it just another game with two points on the line in mid-November?
The first of the two options seems like the most logical answer, but it is also the most flawed.
The fact of the matter is that no matter the outcome of Tuesday's game, it can not and will not change the outcome of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.
Sure, tempers will likely be flaring, and each team will be looking to suppress its opponent and prove that they are still the best team in their respective conference. But when you boil it all down, revenge will play about as much a role in this game as Janet Gretzky at a Gambler's Anonymous group session.
The biggest storyline surrounding this game is Marian Hossa facing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since pulling a Benedict Arnold on the Pens this summer.
In case you were living under a rock for three months, Jokessa expressed his desire to remain in Pittsburgh at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, for the fans, for the city, for his newfound teammates—then jumped ship to Detroit because they offered him "a better chance to win a Championship."
Needless to say, Pittsburghers didn't take too kindly to Hossa's departure, especially after watching such fan favorites as Colby Armstrong, Ryan Malone, and Gary Roberts leave town in anticipation of clearing up some cap space to sign Hossa to a multi-year deal.
Penguins' center Max Talbot didn't hold his tongue when he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that "The way he [Hossa] left was kind of a blow to the heart, but you have to live with that. ... You have to respect his decision, but, for us, it's not the best thing that could have happened."
This season, the Pens are off to their best start since 1995-96, amassing 18 points through their first 14 games.
Detroit has played one less game than Pittsburgh, but has two more points, trailing only the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference standings.
Hossa, who played in 32 games for Pittsburgh during the regular season and playoffs, is off to a good start this year. The winger has eight goals and nine assists, and is the only Red Wing among the NHL's top-30 point scorers.
Evgeni Malkin once again finds himself at the top of the points race, in a tie with Alexander Semin for the league lead with 22.
Mighty Midget Chris Osgood is off to a less-than-superb start. The Wings' netminder has recorded six wins in nine games, but his 2.97 goals-against average and .892 save percentage have left Detroit a little concerned.
The Wings' backup goalie, former Penguin Ty Conklin, has started the season with a 3-1 record and a 3.20 goals-against average.
Detroit's blue line looks much less stable this season than it did in the playoffs last year, which could offer the Penguins a weak spot to attack.
If the Pens can shoot the puck consistently throughout the game and possess the puck in the offensive zone, they should be able to wear down the Wings' aging defensive corps.
The Penguins have enjoyed great goaltending thus far this season, and Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be tested frequently against the high-powered Red Wing offense. However, the Pens need to avoid getting into penalty trouble and giving the Wings' talent-laden power play any extra opportunities.
The downside of this game is that it will be televised nationally on VERSUS, which means we will all be forced to endure three hours of the worst broadcasting crew in the history of sports.
The number of times Mike Emrick references the Stanley Cup Finals of a season ago might actually exceed the number of times he uses the word "finesse" to describe a play on the ice. I know, it's hard to imagine, but anything can happen when Jokemrick puts on the headset.
Another match up to watch is Hal Gill going up against Tomas Holmstrom. The two players exchanged numerous blows in front of the net, each jockeying for position during the playoffs, and Michel Therrien will probably want to counter Holmstrom with Gill or Orpik as much as he can.
This game could go a long way in the confidence department for the Pens, but they must not focus too heavily on avenging a loss that they forget about picking up two points on the road.
Tune in tomorrow night at 7:08 PM when the Pens battle the Wings at what is sure to be a less-than-capacity-filled Joke Louis Arena.
Let's Go Pens.