In two weeks, the Ottawa 67's and Peterborough Petes will likely face each other in the opening round of the OHL playoffs.
So yesterday, they used their time at the Civic Centre in a seemingly meaningless game to send a message to the other side that they better be prepared for a battle.
It didn't quite work out that way for the 67's, who went to sleep at the end of the second period, allowing the Petes to score two easy goals en route to a 3-1 victory.
But at least Ottawa put forth enough of an effort to make the Petes, the top team in the Eastern Conference, realize they don't plan on serving as a speed bump in the opening round.
The 67's had already communicated that earlier in the season, winning the last two games against Peterborough at the Civic Centre by a combined score of 10-1.
The Petes, however, have won five of the seven contests between the teams this season, with their last regular-season encounter set for Thursday in Peterborough.
"We play them tough every game and it's just a big rivalry," said 67's winger Jamie McGinn, whose overtime goal during last year's Eastern Conference championship completed a sweep over the Petes and sent Ottawa into the Memorial Cup.
"Last year, it was huge every time we played them. We play it like we're not just going to be pushovers. Last year in the playoffs, we beat them four straight. I think they're a little nervous right now."
The Petes can't be too nervous about Ottawa's power play, which gone a collective 0-for-27 in the 67's last three home games.
Yesterday, the 67's didn't get many chances during power plays against Peterborough goalie Jeff Shantz, and scored their only goal even-strength early in the first when rookie Logan Couture deflected home a centring pass by Matt Lahey.
The Petes scored all their goals yesterday in the second period, getting the equalizer from Liam Reddox early in the frame. Justin Caruana gave Peterborough the lead with 1:31 left in the second, then Steve Downie beat Danny Battochio with one minute left after an Ottawa turnover on a clearing attempt.
The game featured some solid hitting.
Ottawa defenceman Joe Grimaldi levelled Greg Stewart coming across the blue line with a high forearm, which prompted Petes captain Jamie Tardif to challenge the 67's player to a fight. In the third period, 67's captain Julian Talbot flattened Daniel Ryder in a corner with a check.
Downie took exception and got into Talbot's face, but nothing developed.
"We came into this game wanting to show Ottawa what we've got," said Petes centre Jordan Staal.
"It's tough to come into this building to win. That's what our goal was, and that's what we got done."
IN THE CREASE: Ottawa W Brett Liscomb sat out yesterday with an injured hand. He'll have x-rays today, but said he'll probably play Thursday in Peterborough ... Petes coach Dick Todd served the second of a two-game suspension doled out in the wake of a brawl-filled game against the London Knights on Thursday.