There are 13 Olympians on the rosters of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, six of which represented the United States and Canada on Sunday in what has quickly emerged as international hockey's best rivalry.
The Blackhawks and Canucks are building a pretty good feud of their own on the NHL ice.
Vancouver has won two of three against Chicago after coming up short in last spring's physical playoff series, and it will look for a second victory at the United Center on Friday night in a matchup of Western Conference powers.
The Canucks (39-22-2) and Blackhawks (42-16-5) split four regular-season meetings last season before Chicago rallied from a 2-1 series deficit to knock off Vancouver in six games in the West semifinals.
A 7-5 win in the clincher was highlighted by three goals from Patrick Kane and two from captain Jonathan Toews, who starred for the U.S. and Canada, respectively, in the Olympic tournament that concluded with Canada's thrilling overtime triumph.
Rivals just days ago, Kane and Toews have had two games to get back on the same page, along with fellow Canadians Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. But after facing the woeful New York Islanders and Edmonton, there will be a more urgent atmosphere against a Vancouver team still seeking revenge from its postseason exit.
"They took something from us that the other 28 teams didn't," Canucks forward and U.S. Olympian Ryan Kesler said earlier this season. "We're still upset. Everybody still remembers the feeling after Game 6."
"There's always a little something the year after," he told the Canucks' official Web site.
Vancouver has outscored the Blackhawks 19-7 in winning four of the past five regular-season meetings, including two of three this season. The Canucks rallied from a third-period deficit to win 3-2 at the United Center on Oct. 21, and routed Chicago 5-1 in their most recent meeting on Jan. 23, behind two goals from Henrik Sedin and 43 saves from Luongo.
After going into the Olympic break with an ugly 6-2 loss at Minnesota, Vancouver has kicked off the second part of its NHL-record 14-game road trip in outstanding fashion.
Andrew Raycroft made 27 stops in a 4-3 overtime win in Columbus on Tuesday, then four of the Canucks' seven Olympians delivered Wednesday at Detroit. Kesler scored twice, Henrik and Daniel Sedin had three assists apiece and Luongo had 28 saves in a 6-3 victory.
"Both (games) we played good, we had a lot of jump, all four lines, and our (defensemen) have been good," Henrik Sedin said. "So I don't see any rust coming off the break here."
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, looked a bit weary Tuesday on Long Island, giving up four second-period goals in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders.
They bounced back a night later at home against Edmonton. Tied at 2 after 40 minutes, Toews had a goal and an assist and Kane set up two goals in the third to lift Chicago to a 5-2 victory.
"The third period, that's the way we can be," Toews said. "I think we got our legs.
"The last two nights, we've played two teams everybody expects you to beat. There are 20-some games left, and you've got to focus on what you can do, no matter who you're playing."
To even the regular-season series with Vancouver, the Blackhawks could use a boost from Kane. The former No. 1 overall pick had six goals against the Canucks in the playoffs, but has been held to one assist in three games this season.
Luongo, who had a 3.52 goals-against average in the playoff series, is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 GAA in his last seven regular-season starts against Chicago.