The New York Rangers enjoyed a head-to-head edge over the Pittsburgh Penguins last regular season, beating them five times in eight games, including all four contests at Madison Square Garden.
In their postseason series, however, it took the Penguins just five games to distinguish themselves.
The two Eastern Conference heavyweights, both off to fast starts, will meet Saturday night in midtown Manhattan for the first time since Pittsburgh ushered New York out of the playoffs.
Home-ice advantage played a major role in the regular-season series between the Penguins (5-2-1) and Rangers last season, as New York outscored Pittsburgh 15-5 in four games at Madison Square Garden, but was edged 11-6 while losing three of four at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins maintained their home edge in the playoffs, taking the first two games of their conference semifinal series in Pittsburgh, then stole Game 3 in New York before eventually finishing off the series at home in five.
The Penguins only lost 10 home games last season - fewest in the Eastern Conference - but they weren't much more than a .500 team away from Mellon Arena. They've played five of six in Pittsburgh since starting the season with two games in Sweden, but will get a taste of the road with a tough four-game trip starting in New York.
"We always look at these trips as challenges, and we're playing some good hockey teams," captain Sidney Crosby told the Penguins' official Web site. "It will be a great test for us."
Perhaps their biggest obstacle will be the Rangers (7-2-1), who have an NHL-best 15 points. But after a hot 5-0-0 start, New York cooled a bit, going 1-2-1 and scoring just six goals in its next four games.
The Rangers got back in the win column on Friday, getting a goal and two assists from offseason acquisition Nikolai Zherdev in the 23-year-old's return to Columbus, a 3-1 New York win.
"It's not easy going back to the team that traded you," center Chris Drury said. "He seemed real focused. He just had a great night."
Zherdev only faced the Penguins three times while with the Blue Jackets, but he scored a goal in each game.
The Rangers will look considerably different than the team Pittsburgh saw in the postseason, with forwards Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka and Sean Avery all gone.
One face that hasn't changed, however, is the one behind the mask in goal. Henrik Lundqvist is 5-2-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average so far this season, and he's typically fared well against the Penguins. Lundqvist is 12-6-3 with a 2.11 GAA in 21 regular-season starts versus Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, though, have their own standout goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, who's allowed one goal in each of his last two starts - both wins - while facing 52 shots. He made 24 saves on Thursday as Pittsburgh overcame a 1-0 third-period deficit to beat Carolina 4-1.
"I was trying to make some key saves to keep the team in there," said Fleury, who's 6-1-4 with a 1.95 GAA in his last 11 starts against the Rangers.
Aside from solving Fleury, the Rangers will have to try to shut down Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who seem to be clicking since coach Michel Therrien moved Malkin to Crosby's wing one week ago. Crosby has a goal and five assists and Malkin - the league leader with 13 points - a goal and six assists in the past three games.
Malkin had four goals and three assists, and Crosby added six assists, in the playoff series against the Rangers.