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Bruins - Canucks: The Return Match

In professional wrestling, when a defending champion loses his title, he's almost always guaranteed a chance to get his title back, and the return match is usually better than the first one, because the two adversaries know each other so well and actually have something personal on the line.

Alas, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins face off this afternoon, but neither the President's Trophy nor the Stanley Cup will be at TD Garden this afternoon, and the only thing on the line in this mid-season tilt is two points.

And an awful lot of pride and respect.

Pride, something which Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneualt and franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo already declared they have no interest in restoring when the coach announced that Luongo would be opening the gate instead of shutting the door as Massachusetts native and BC alum Corey Schneider gets the start in net for Vancouver.

Respect, which Luongo proved to have none of for himself, because he didn't fight back against the decision.

Pride, which Vancouver won't have the opportunity to defend because defenseman Aaron Rome - who delivered the hit that knocked Bruins' forward Nathan Horton out of the Stanley Cup Finals in game three, sparking the Bruins to an 8-1 win in that game and an eventual series win - is out with a broken thumb.

Respect, which Henrik Sedin and "the vegetarian" Alexandre Burrows will have an opportunity to earn if they man up and show some toughness and pride.

Respect, which Vigneault has already given up any hope of restoring when he complained about the start time of the game earlier this week.

Sure, the two points are important for teams that are at or near the top of their division, but there are bigger things at play in this game.

For Bruins fans, this isn't just a game against a newly-minted rival. This is the Game Seven that they never got to witness, and they'll come ready for it, surely having heeded the advice of local social conduct maven Tom Brady and having started early.

And it will be a chance to thumb their nose at any Vancouver fan intrepid enough to make the 2,600-mile jaunt across the continent; after all, the two points might be important, but for at least one day, the Stanley Cup means an awful lot again.

But when it comes down to it, there's still a hockey game to play. If Boston, which has scored 17 unanswered goals on TD Garden ice, keeps up their current pace, they'll put Vancouver in a world of hurt early and not look back.

If the Canucks come out fighting - and anyone with a seat on a radio show has already decided they won't - it may indeed be a back-and-forth battle with skill and speed colliding with strength and determination.

Boston may win, Vancouver may win. It may be a blowout or go to the tenth round of a shootout.

But either way, the title's safe in Boston.