The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks have developed a rivalry after meeting in two of the last four postseasons. Now they are division rivals once again.
These teams meet as Pacific Division opponents for the first time since 1997-98 when their five-game season series opens Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Vancouver (11-5-2) captured the final five Northwest Division titles before joining an expanded Pacific that has been the NHL's most competitive division so far with five teams totaling at least 20 points.
That quintet includes these teams that have some recent familiarity. Vancouver won a first-round series in six games in 2010 before eighth-seeded Los Angeles (10-6-0) returned the favor with a first-round victory in five games two years later en route to capturing its first Stanley Cup.
"Tough team," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Used to winning the division, and now they're in a bigger division, and they're trying to win it. So we've got our hands full. It's a good rivalry. I'm looking forward to it."
There wasn't much of a rivalry back in 1997-98 when these teams were last both in the Pacific, with the Kings finishing second and the Canucks last. Los Angeles is in fifth place in the division this season despite its strong start.
"Quite honest, if I'd have said after 16, and we had 10 wins, I would've said that was good, and that tells you how tough it is," Sutter said.
His team comes in less than full strength after Jeff Carter missed his second straight game with a foot injury and center Jarret Stoll sat out for the first time with an upper-body injury in Thursday's 2-0 win over Buffalo.
Vancouver will be counting on the Sedin brothers to bounce back after they had a rare pointless effort in Thursday's 4-2 victory at San Jose.
Henrik Sedin had points in an NHL-best 12 straight games while brother Daniel had his seven-game point streak snapped. Linemate Ryan Kesler had 10 points in the past nine games before being held without a point.
Chris Higgins had a goal and an assist as the Canucks found enough offense from other sources to improve to 1-0-1 on a four-game trip.
''That's a good sign for our club, getting some help and some depth within our team as far as producing,'' coach John Tortorella said. ''We're going to need it as we continue to go on through this trip.''
The Canucks went 2-0-1 last season against the Kings despite going 0 for 8 on the power play, and that unit is struggling at 10.3 percent this season for one of the NHL's worst marks.
Los Angeles killed off all four power-play chances by the Sabres after allowing nine goals in its previous 26 times short-handed over a six-game stretch prior to Thursday. The Kings limited foes to 10.8 percent on the power play during a 6-3-0 start.
"It's hard to practice penalty killing because you don't want guys blocking shots in practice," Sutter said. "So it's more video and structure, and quite honest, the last six games we weren't very happy with our penalty killing, and the first nine we were."