VANCOUVER -- It's a Stanley Cup playoff series with skill, will and ill will.
"It should be very exciting," said Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville of two teams which, the last time they played, produced an old-time hockey line brawl.
That was late in the regular season when the Hawks and Vancouver Canucks looked like they were going to play each other in the first round, not the Western Conference semifinal series which opens here tonight.
Much is being made of the last meeting between these two teams in the regular season, a 4-0 Vancouver victory in Chicago which was low-lighted by the line brawl, inspired by Dustin Byfuglien cross-checking Roberto Luongo in the face and Adam Burish taking a run at Henrik Sedin.
"Obviously that was an intense game with the playoffs coming up and sometimes it can get a little bit out of hand," said Hawks' Duncan Keith.
There'd been some tough talk from the Canucks before the Blackhawks, who came here directly from Calgary, took the ice at G.M. Place for practice yesterday.
"I'll guarantee you one thing, they won't be getting to Louie as easily as they got to Miikka Kiprusoff. There are no secrets at this time of year. Whoever wants it more is going to win," said Shane O'Brien, a prominent participant in the melee which drew 80 minutes in penalties.
"The No. 1 thing we have to do is get traffic in front of Luongo," said Chicago's Patrick Kane.
"I'm sure there will be some heavy traffic. I'm sure it's going to be part of the game plan. My job is to battle through those things and make a save," said Luongo.
"Our forwards have to read the rush and hit their defence in a legal and physical way," said coach Alain Vignault.
"We had a physical challenge from Calgary and handled it well. We expect a physical challenge here," said Quenneville.
"Chicago has three lines that can score on a regular basis. And their defence joins the rush better than St. Louis," said Vigneault.
"We expect a fast-paced game. They're a faster team than Calgary. Everybody is talking about our firepower, but they have a lot of firepower over there as well," Kane added.
"They have a lot of young skill and so do we," said Canucks' Ryan Kesler.
"We match up pretty well and we have to play like we did against St. Louis and basically hit everything in sight."
Back and forth the whistle wetting went yesterday.
It's an interesting series to evaluate.
There are all sorts of interesting scenarios involved with these two teams, which finished third and fourth in the West, Vancouver getting third because they won the Northwest Division, despite having fewer points in the standings than Chicago.
One focus is going to be Chicago's Samuel Pahlsson against the Sedin twins, if that's the match-up.
Two years ago Pahlsson, who lives a five-minute boat ride from the Sedins in Sweden, shut Henrik down without a point in the second round series against the Anaheim Ducks in what turned out to be a five-game series.
"That was two years ago," said Henrik, who said that a lot in the first round when, like brother Daniel, he produced six points in the sweep of the St. Louis Blues.
"The Sedins are the No. 1 assignment defensively," admitted Quenneville.
"They had a real strong first series."
So did the young Hawks, who continue to get better.
"We won on the road in Calgary and we faced adversity when we lost Games three and four," he said.
"We're a work in progress and it was a good education for a lot of our young guys."