Ryan Kesler and Jonathan Toews will renew their rivalry when the Western Conference Final gets going this afternoon.
The pair got acquainted with one another as the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks met in the playoffs three straight years.
Now a member of the Anaheim Ducks, Kesler figures the animosity will pick up right where it left off.
“If I play against him in this series, I’m sure we won’t hug each other on the dot — let’s just say that,” Kesler said per the Chicago Sun-Times.
In 19 games over the three playoff series between the Hawks and Canucks, Toews scored seven goals and 20 points while Kesler had two goals and 11 points.
“[Kesler] is definitely a player you respect and challenge yourself against,” Toews said. “Most of all he plays a smart, gritty game defensively. He tries to take other top players off their game. I think our guys know he’s one of those guys we have to be concerned with — try to not let him have an easy time with us and let him play his game too easily.”
Patrick Kane has got to know Kesler as the pair were teammates on two U.S. Olympic teams and sees similarities between the two centers.
“He kind of reminds me of Jonny a little bit as a player,” said Kane. “He’s kind of that two-way centerman, easy to play with; is always looking to get the puck in your hands, too.”
Kesler has four goals and five assists in nine playoff games this season while Toews has four goals and seven assists in 10 games.
“Toews is a good player,” Kesler said. “We match up against each other. When you play the same guy for six, seven games in a row, obviously there’s going to be a rivalry there.”