Chicago forward Dave Bolland appears set to return from a foot injury on Wednesday, with coach Joel Quenneville saying the center is "likely to play" in Vancouver.
Given the opponent, it's hardly surprising.
Bolland has played a leading role in a rivalry with the Canucks that has become one of the NHL's best and most bitter over the last three seasons. The opportunity to return to his rightful place under the skin of identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin may have simply been too tempting for the skilled agitator to pass up.
"It's always a temptation when we are playing these guys," said Bolland, who missed the previous three games after blocking a shot against St. Louis on Nov. 8. "If it's just taping a boot to my skate or taping anything that would help you feel better, it's always great playing these guys with the kind of rivalry and the hype and everything that goes into games against Vancouver."
Chicago, which is tied with Pittsburgh atop the NHL standings with 25 points, won't have top-pair defenseman Brent Seabrook for what will be the 33rd meeting between these teams the last three-plus seasons, including three straight playoffs. Seabrook, who suffered a "lower-body injury" Sunday after crashing feet-first into the boards, is on the road trip, but didn't skate the last two days.
Bolland has, but was laboring Monday and on the fourth line during the morning skate Tuesday. That could change if it means going up against the Sedins, because he has been like Kryptonite for the winners of the last two Art Ross Trophies.
Bolland missed the first three games of last spring's first-round playoff meeting and the Sedins combined for 9 points while the Canucks took a 3-0 series lead. But with Bolland back, the twins managed just 3 points and were a combined minus-13 in the final four games, while Bolland had 6 points and was plus-6 on his own.
Sure, the twins combined for 7 points during a 6-2 romp in Chicago on Nov. 6, but as the Blackhawks quickly point out, that game was decided on special teams, with the Sedins doing most of their damage on a man advantage unit that went 5-for-6 (they also set up Jannik Hansen for a tap in on the lone even-strength marker).
"They are tough to contain, they are dangerous in so many ways," Quenneville said, adding he had confidence Markus Kruger could do the job if he stays in Bolland's spot on the third line. "And I don't think you ever feel like you got it nailed out there against those guys but (Bolland has) done a nice job."
Whether Bolland plays against the Sedins, there will be no shortage of animosity between two teams that have grown to openly dislike each other.
Patrick Kane said most of the Blackhawks went their separate ways after the Canucks knocked them out in overtime of Game 7 last season, but got back in touch when the Canucks played -- and lost -- Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins almost two months later.
"It seems a lot of us were texting each other back and forth during Game 7 and a lot of us were pretty happy Vancouver didn't win," Kane said with a smile.
"We'll try to keep them out of that position again this year."
Tonight's projected lineup:
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Daniel Carcillo - Patrick Kane - Patrick Sharp
Bryan Bickell - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Jamal Mayers
Duncan Keith - Steve Montador
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy
Sami Lepisto - John Scott
Corey Crawford will start in net and Ray Emery will back him up.
Don't be surprised if Bolland and Kruger flip-flop against the Sedins.
The odd man out is Rostislav Olesz, who Quenneville confirmed has been put on waivers after playing just six of the first 18 games, despite earning $3.4-million this season on a contract with two more years and $8.25-million left on it after this one. Quenneville didn't want to say what might happen to Olesz, who was acquired from Florida in exchange for defenseman Brian Campbell, until the waiver period has passed.
"His opportunity was limited but sometimes you earn opportunity as you go along," he said. "He hasn't produced at the rate -- and I'm not necessarily talking about production but his overall game -- maybe we were looking for."
On defense, Montador moves up to play with Keith, while Lepisto gets his first action in five games alongside Scott on the third pairing. As for Seabrook, Quennevilel said he is "progressing really well but out tonight."