The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are primed for what they feel will be an emotional rematch of last season's Stanley Cup finals at the United Center.
The Blackhawks will also seek to build on a marquee victory when they face the Bruins on Sunday for the first time since a stunning Cup-clinching victory.
Chicago and Boston played a dramatic championship series that featured three overtime games, including a triple-OT opener at the United Center. The Blackhawks and Bruins looked like they were headed for a seventh game until Chicago scored two goals - 17 seconds apart - in the final 1:16 of Game 6 in Boston.
"I think it's going to be special," said Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell, who scored the first of those two goals. "To have the series like we did, there's going to be emotion in this game. It's going to be an intense game. I know they're not happy about losing. They're going to come back and give it everything they've got."
After rallying from a 2-1 deficit for their second Cup title in four seasons, the Blackhawks (31-8-11) are once again near the top of the Western Conference standings. They helped themselves with a 4-2 win Friday over West-leading Anaheim, which had won 18 of 19 coming in.
Marian Hossa scored a pair of goals, including an empty-netter after the Ducks cut a 3-0 deficit to one with 5:20 remaining in the third period. Chicago was 1-1-3 in its previous five games.
"Everybody comes into this building and playing us as the defending Stanley Cup champion, everybody's got their game high," Hossa said.
The Blackhawks will face another motivated team in the Bruins, who will get a firsthand look at the championship banner that eluded them last season.
"It's hard still. It hurts to see that 2013 on the wall there, ya know? But it's in the past and you move on," Boston forward Patrice Bergeron told the team's official Twitter account. "Obviously there's going to be some emotions and an atmosphere that's going to be great ... We need to make sure we're ready."
The Bruins (30-15-2) are 2-3-0 in their last five games but have won their past two on the road. Brad Marchand scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period of a 4-2 win in Dallas on Friday, and Milan Lucic ended his team's six-game power play drought with 4:14 remaining.
"We wanted to make sure we tried to right the ship," Marchand said. "We've been playing halfway decent lately but we know it could be a lot better. I think we did a pretty good job tonight of sticking with it and playing a pretty good game."
Boston will try to hold on to sole possession of first in the Atlantic Division by earning its fifth win in the last eight visits to Chicago. The Bruins dropped two of their three games at the United Center during the Cup finals, earning the lone win in overtime in Game 2.
Andrew Shaw denied Boston a series-opening victory when he deflected a shot past Tuukka Rask off his own leg, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane scored a pair of goals in a 3-1 victory in Game 5 on June 22.
Kane had a team-best 19 points in the playoffs for Chicago and five points (three goals) in the series against Boston. The Blackhawks' leader with 56 points, Kane has just three assists in his last nine contests after a 27-game stretch in which he totaled 16 goals and 26 assists.
Lucic had a team-best six points for Boston in the finals (four goals) and Bergeron also scored four goals. Before his goal and assist in the win over Dallas, Lucic didn't have a point in his previous four games.
Bergeron has a goal and an assist in each of his last two contests.