It had been more than 10 long months since the Blackhawks and Canucks last met, when Duncan Keith elbowed Daniel Sedin in the head at the United Center. An entire postseason, offseason and lockout all had happened in the meantime.
But Vancouver hadn't forgotten. Not its fans. Not its players. Not its media.
"Is that still an issue?" Hawks winger Patrick Kane said when immediately asked about it after Friday's morning skate. "Seem like that was a long time ago. I don't think anyone's really thought about that in here."
Well, plenty of people have thought about it in Vancouver.
"Anytime you make a cheap shot on one of our best players, you leave a sour taste in some guys' mouths," said Canucks winger Dale Weise.
As if this rivalry -- one that Hawks center and noted Sedin agitator Dave Bolland called the best in the NHL -- needed any more juice to it.
"It's a great rivalry," Weise said. "We're not going to forget what happened last year, but obviously we've got to go out and play the game. It's a big two points."
As for Keith, he stood before the horde of cameras and microphones and repeatedly said he was just focused on the game, and not on what the Canucks might have in store for him. He was suspended five games for the elbow on Sedin on March 21, a hit that gave Sedin a concussion and knocked him out for a month -- including the first three games of top-seeded Vancouver's five-game playoff loss to the Kings.
Keith insisted he wasn't a dirty player, essentially saying he got caught up in the intensity of the game.
"For the most part, I'm a pretty honest player," he said. "Obviously, I got suspended and was punished for that. So it's something I wasn't very proud of. For me, it's in the past."
Keith's clean track record -- Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo called him "a great guy ... who you would rather have on your team than play against" -- made the revenge angle trickier for Vancouver.
"Say if [Daniel] Carcillo was the guy who did it, obviously I think he's a guy that would stand up for himself; you'd have a fight and it'd be over with," Weise said. "It's a different story with a guy like Keith. He's a top-end player, he's not a guy that's going to get involved in an altercation. So there's not much you can do."
There's also, of course, the risk of taking foolish penalties in the name of revenge, and giving the Blackhawks power play -- which is scoring at a 24.1 percent clip this season -- too many opportunities. Kane said he was hoping that's exactly what would happen in the game. Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said the team had discussed playing disciplined leading up to this game.
"Everyone's aware of it," he said. "It's a big game for us. If you're going to run around and do things other than play hockey, it's going to be a tough game for us."
It's just the latest chapter to one of the most heated rivalries in the league, one born out of three straight intense playoff meetings, and one that's been simmering -- in Western Canada, at least -- for the last 10 months.
The way the Hawks see it, that just makes it all the more fun.
"I was just telling [rookie Brandon Saad], it's his first game against Vancouver, how fun of a rivalry it is, with the rink being packed," Kane said. "It just feels like hockey."