VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The heated rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks rarely needs any extra fuel to spark a fire, but there is plenty of it going into their first meeting of the season Friday.
It will be the first time the teams have played each other since March 21, when Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith hit Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin with an elbow to the head, earning a five-game suspension. Sedin sustained a concussion and missed almost a month, and in his absence the Canucks lost the first three games of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series to the Los Angeles Kings.
Sedin and Keith each downplayed the incident Friday morning.
"I don't get angry that much," Sedin said, insisting several times a win was all that mattered Friday. "It was more disappointment, so that's the only feeling I have. From what I heard he is a great guy and I still believe he is a good guy, that's not going to change. I think when the rivalry gets that heated, players maybe do things they shouldn't do, and that was probably the case."
Keith seemed to echo those sentiments about the incident and the rivalry, but stopped when asked if he owed Sedin an apology.
"I try to play an honest game and sometimes hockey is an intense game and you got to always be careful and be smart in certain situation and not react the wrong way," Keith said. "For me it's almost a year ago now and I've moved forward and I was glad to see him come back and play in the playoffs, and I mean that."
That doesn't mean the Canucks have forgotten Keith's elbow.
"Anytime you make a cheap shot on one of our best players, you leave a sour taste in some guys' mouths," Vancouver forward Dale Weise said. "If we get a chance on someone like that and there is an opportunity, we have guys that will step up, but we're more focused on winning the game tonight."
Keith, the 2010 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's top defenseman, said he wasn't worried about what the Canucks might "want to do" to him Friday. Like Sedin, he said the focus is more on winning, something the Blackhawks failed to do for the first time in seven games Wednesday, when they lost 3-2 in a shootout against the Minnesota Wild.
That won’t keep the Canucks from looking to be physical on Keith, but the shifty Chicago defenseman notoriously is tough to hit.
"He'll make you look bad. He's a Norris Trophy winner and a hell of a [defenseman]," Vancouver forward Alexandre Burrows said. "If I get a chance I will probably take a lick at him, but at the same time you don't want to go out of your way or do something illegal or get in trouble afterwards."
Especially because the Blackhawks' power play is ninth in the League at 25.0 percent, and the Canucks' penalty killing is 24th at 73.3 percent.
Given the bitter history between the teams, which includes three playoff meetings in the past four seasons, there won't be any shortage of players willing to enter whatever frays develop.
"It's clear there is some bad blood on both sides," Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. "We've played against these guys and it's been a lot of penalties, a lot of fights and scrums and trash talk, and we've played against them where it's been a puck-possession game, so playing the Canucks you've got to be ready for anything."
That includes a lot of animosity, but doesn't mean it's personal.
"I don't know if there's a dislike between people personally," Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. "I think off the ice we can all probably get along, but when you are on the ice and we see a Canucks jersey, or they see a Blackhawks jersey, it always seems to pump up each of us."