The 2016-17 season opens Wednesday with four games. NBCSN will air two of them, including the Wednesday Night Rivalry game between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
The other game features the Los Angeles Kings at the San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
The first Wednesday Night Rivalry game of the season features two Central Division teams that have battled in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the past three seasons.
Here are some of the reasons we are excited to tune in to see the Blues face the Blackhawks:
Patrick Kane and friends
Kane, last season's Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, starts the season with Artemi Panarin on his line, a pairing that was magic for much of last season. Artemi Anisimov centers the line.
Kane had 46 goals and 106 points; he was the only player to top 100 points. Kane finished the regular season on a high note, scoring 12 points in his final five games, including a hat trick against the Boston Bruins on April 4.
St. Louis was the only opponent in that five-game stretch that didn't allow Kane to score a goal when they played (April 7). Kane had seven points in the seven-game series loss to the Blues in their Western Conference First Round series, but did not score in Game 7.
Video: CHI@STL, Gm5: Kane sends Hawks to win in double OT
Tarasenko tries to get to next level
St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko's goal-scoring numbers have been on a steady upward trajectory since he joined the Blues in 2013. He had eight goals (in 38 games) as a rookie and upped that number to 21 (in 64 games) games the following season. In 2014-15, he had 37 goals in 77 games. Last season, it was 40 goals in 80 games.
What will this season hold for the 24-year-old right wing?
Several observers believe he could challenge countryman Alex Ovechkin for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Ovechkin led the NHL with 50 goals for the Washington Capitals last season.
Tarasenko is already in midseason form after playing for Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Video: STL@CHI, Gm6: Tarasenko goes top-shelf to pad lead
The previous time the Blackhawks and Blues saw each other, Chicago was lining up to congratulate the winners after St. Louis won Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series, a 3-2 win on a goal by former Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer with 8:31 remaining. It was a bit of revenge for the Blues, who lost their opening-round playoff series in 2014 to Chicago after winning the first two games. For their part, be assured that the defending Stanley Cup champions were less than happy about seeing their bid to repeat ended so quickly, especially at the hands of one of their biggest rivals.
Familiarity breeds dislike
The Blackhawks and Blues have been together since 1970, when Chicago was placed in the Western Division along with the six teams that joined the NHL in the 1967 expansion. Since then, they've been together in the West (1970-74), Smythe (1974-81), Norris (1981-93) and Central (1993-present) divisions. The Blackhawks lead the all-time series 144-112-35-10; however the Blues have won 11 of the 20 regular-season games since the start of the 2012-13 season, though six of their wins have come in overtime or shootouts. No matter what division they're in, the one constant is that these games have always been intense, regardless of where the teams are in the standings.
Battle of the bench bosses
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock starts his final season with 757 wins, fourth on the all-time list. He needs 43 wins to become the third coach in League history to reach 800 wins. Hitchcock also needs 26 wins to pass Al Arbour for third on the all-time list, but he's unlikely to climb any higher. That's because the No. 2 position is held by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who begins the season with 801 wins; that includes 307 with the Blues from 1996-2004.