CHICAGO -- It's business almost 24-7 in today's NHL but tonight's game at United Center is one of those amusing little side stories that players will always embrace.

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This article was published 12/10/2011 (3910 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CHICAGO -- It's business almost 24-7 in today's NHL but tonight's game at United Center is one of those amusing little side stories that players will always embrace.

The Chicago Blackhawks and their fans are ready to welcome two members of their 2010 Stanley Cup-winning squad back to town as the reborn Winnipeg Jets and their captain Andrew Ladd and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien play their first game in the Windy City since the championship.

KEN GIGLIOTTI /  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 
Dustin Byfuglien played Chicago once last year � in Atlanta.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dustin Byfuglien played Chicago once last year � in Atlanta.

It's an occasion.

"It's a little different in pro sports -- there are always players coming and going and every year it seems you lose teammates," said Chicago centre Patrick Sharp after his team's practice on Wednesday. "But when you lose guys from a championship team, that's a little different.

"But this is the first time we're seeing them in our building and it's going to be exciting. At the end of the day it's a big game that both teams want to win."

The Hawks have faced Ladd and Byfuglien before, a 5-4 shootout win last Nov. 6 in Atlanta, their only meeting of the season.

"There were a few Hawks fans there, Atlanta was playing really well at the time, it was a high-scoring game and Buff was back on D," Sharp recalled. "When he was with us he was a forward so it was a little different seeing him back there. The fans probably won't like this but we got together and had a nice dinner before the game and got a few laughs in. When the game started, it was all business."

The business included chatter.

"There's always the friendly chirps," Sharp laughed. "But you're always playing 100 per cent against the other guy out there and you want to beat them. The chirping is the stuff to chuckle about. There's no hard feelings. You play as hard as you can but at the end of the day, you're still friends."

Duncan Keith, the 2010 Norris-Trophy-winning defenceman, sees a happy reunion between Chicago fans and the Jets duo tonight.

"I'd imagine it'll be a good one," the Winnipeg-born Keith said. "I think Buff was one of the fan favourites here. He's a big personality. Laddy's kind of a quiet guy but I think the fans appreciated what he brought to our team. I'd imagine it'll be a real warm reception."

There's also a game to play, too.

"(We'll try) to outskate Buff a little bit, trying to tire him out, but you know if you run into him, you're not going to have much luck trying to go through him," Jonathan Toews smirked. "We'll just be smart knowing when those guys are out there."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca