They are billing it as the "Commonwealth Cold War" here in the state of Pennsylvania.
It will be, we hope, anything but cold.
"We don't like each other," said Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby about the Philadelphia Flyers, "so that's the way it is. You can dissect all you want, but, really, when it comes down to it, we just don't like each other."
Crosby and the Penguins looked loose during their hour-long practice Tuesday in preparation for the opening game of their series with the Flyers here Wednesday. Coach Dan Bylsma spent a lot of time working on special teams, which are sure to have an influence on a series in which discipline is going to be the watchword.
But for all the genuine dislike between the cross-state rivals, the subplots like Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr coming back after spurning Pittsburgh -- where he won two Stanley Cups -- last summer as a free agent and the wonderfully unpredictable nature of the Flyers' goaltending -- that never gets old, does it? -- Crosby remains the most compelling personality in this highly anticipated series.
At the heart of the hate is Crosby.
There has not been a once-a-generation player like him for the way he is universally criticized and despised outside of his home city. Wayne Gretzky heard it from the fans in Calgary when he would siddle up to a referee and whisper sweet nothings, but Gretzky, well, he was The Great One everywhere else.
Outside of Steeltown, Sid the Kid doesn't get much love. And Crosby might not be more hated than he is in Philadelphia.
Half of the fans there see him as a whining crybaby (Cindy Crosby?) who brings dishonour to the game by diving to draw penalties.
The other half really don't like him.
Is it because Crosby can, when probably stimulated like he was when the Flyers and Penguins met here April 1, can give as well as he gets, both physcially and verbally?
Gretzky always had somebody fight his battles whenever anyone dared to encroach on his bubble.
Crosby will hack and whack to get his space.
At this time of year, the top players on each club are targeted for extra attention. The elephant in the room, of course, is given Crosby's battles with concussions, is somebody on the Flyers going to go out of their way to take a run at him?
Despite Crosby's contention the Flyers "seem to bring out the worst in me, too," the orange and black environment seems to get him cranked up.
The Flyers are one of the teams against which Crosby has recorded the most regular-season points: 66 (27 goals and 39 assists in 39 career regular-season games; he also has 66 career points against the New York Islanders).
When the Flyers and Penguins met in the first round in 2009, Crosby scored the tying and insurance goals in the clinching game of the six-game series and he has 15 points in 11 career playoff games against the Flyers.
"I think everyone brings their best when the two teams meet. It brings out the best in everybody," said Crosby after Tuesday's practice. "That's usually what happens with rivalries. The intensity, everything that comes with it, that's to be expected. It's a good thing. Playoffs is different. You only get a few chances, it's a little bit tighter so all those things get magnified.
"It's pretty simple, pretty clear, everyone cares about winning," he said. "They don't care about anything else and that's what I like most about it."
Given the potential for some strong dislike, there's a lot to like about it.