DALLAS - It's fitting that Mike Modano's appendectomy healed in time for one more, and perhaps last, duel with a familiar old foe that's been a pain in his side for as long as he can remember.
The names and faces have changed over the years, mostly for the worse on both sides, but any time Modano sees Oilers colours he can't help but rub a few of those old battle scars.
"Any time you mention the name or see the jersey you think back to all those games and experiences, playing in front of that crowd up there," said the almost-40 Stars centre, who'll decide this summer if he's retiring or not.
"You say the name and see the logo and you flash back to those times. Those were some good times and great memories. Some tough games in Edmonton."
Modano and the Oilers waged playoff war six times in seven years, gruelling battles of attrition that left both sides, regardless of who won or lost, almost entirely spent.
"We always said, a month before the season ended, we'll probably play Edmonton, things just slotted that way," he said. "They always played us as hard as they could. Physical, tough. You came out of those series feeling it after playing those guys."
The Oilers could never match Dallas's skill, so the game plan was to beat the hell out of them.
Those annual trips through Edmonton probably wound up costing Dallas a Cup or two because they were so beat up they didn't have enough left for the last three rounds.
"We couldn't match their skill, so we said let's just get 100 hits a game," said Ethan Moreau, who always lined up against Modano and knows from experience that he's more than a pretty-boy goalscorer.
"I remember one time he got hit in the face with the puck, we thought he was done. The feeling on the bench is we thought we got rid of him. Then he's back.
"He always found a way to make an impression in big games."
Over the years, as they look back at those 33 playoff games, they can't help but feel a sense of admiration for the guys on the other side.
"You go from hatred to a respect," said Moreau. "(Modano) always handled himself with a lot of class, regardless of the situation. You took a cheap shot at him or said something you weren't supposed to say, it was all left on the ice.
"He's up there with a guy like Yzerman as far as the respect that he demands around the league. A Hall of Fame guy that for a guy like me was a real pleasure to be able to play against him for that many years."
If this is his last year, the league is losing a great one.
"Mike is one of those special people that we've had in the game for a long time," said Pat Quinn. "I don't know if this is it, but if it's it, we'll miss him."