When the 2017-18 NHL schedule was released, Dec. 8 was circled on the Predators' calendar for a couple of reasons.
Of course, it's the first time the Predators will ever play the Vegas Golden Knights, the League's 31st team that began play this season. Secondarily, it marks the return of former winger James Neal to Nashville, the player Vegas selected from the Preds during the Expansion Draft.
However, it'd be difficult to find an individual who would have pegged Friday's matchup as a meeting between two Western Conference powerhouses - but you never quite know what you're going to get on the ice.
Indeed, the Preds and Golden Knights, first in the Central, second in the Pacific, respectively, have a combined 35 wins and 74 points between them. Needless to say, it should be quite the skirmish in Smashville.
"I expect a tough game; they're beating everybody, and not just beating them, they're doubling up on almost everything they do," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the Golden Knights. "They're winning hockey games, they're off to a terrific start, they're battling for first in their division and there's no fluke to it… If you're not ready to play, you'll probably end up in the loss column. We don't want to fall into that, we want to make sure we're ready to compete and ready to play."
Video: Preds thank forward James Neal for time in Nashville
That will mean finding a way to stop Neal, who has tallied 13 goals and 21 points through 27 games for Vegas, while serving as an alternate captain, a challenge goaltender Pekka Rinne is up for.
"He's such a character and such a personality, and we all have nothing but great memories of him," Rinne said of Neal. "He's such a great player. I was lucky to play with him, and a true goal-scorer, too, so that's obviously going to present a challenge for me."
Friday will also mark a family affair for the Subbans as Nashville's P.K. could face Vegas's Malcolm, a goaltender, for the first time as a professional. The Golden Knights are also hosting their Fathers Trip, so Karl Subban will be back in Nashville just two weeks after taking the same trip with the Preds, a unique opportunity to see two sons at once in the NHL.
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Neal banks puck in off Murray's glove
And as for P.K., he says it's been a while since he's taken a shot on his brother, but he can't wait for that chance.
"Maybe that's part of his thing, not letting me shoot on him so I don't where to go," P.K. joked. "But I'll find a way tomorrow."