Go ahead, imagine.
It's February, 2010. The gold medal game of the Vancouver Winter Olympics at GM Place.
Captain Sidney Crosby leads Team Canada on to the ice to take on the U.S., the second time in eight years the two countries will battle for gold in an Olympics held on North American soil.
At one end, American starting goaltender Ryan Miller scratches the blue painted crease with his skates, readying for the biggest international game of his life.
At the other end?
Well, it's none other than Cam Ward of Sherwood Park, Alberta, also getting ready to make a splash on the international stage.
Ward, by 2010, would be 26. Miller would be 29.
And the scenario, while hardly definite, is entirely plausible.
It's also the scenario that will be played out Thursday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in Raleigh when Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes try to administer the knockout blow to Miller and the Buffalo Sabres after failing to do so two nights earlier in Buffalo.
Both have played very well in the conference final. Ward stole an overtime win for his team in Game 6 after replacing Martin Gerber partway through the game, while Miller made a point blank save on Rod Brind'Amour with less than two minutes left in Game 6 to ultimately give teammate Daniel Briere a chance to later with the game in OT.
One of these youngsters will go on to play for the Stanley Cup, and possibly forge their reputation further by winning the Cup.
But how likely is a Ward-Miller confrontation four years from now at the Olympics in Vancouver?
Well, it's likelier Miller will be there, if only because he will undoubtedly face less competition.
Four years ago when Canada faced the U.S. for gold in Salt Lake City, the goaltending matchup was Mike Richter against Martin Brodeur. While Brodeur is still competing, Richter is still retired, and none of the U.S. goalies at the Turin Olympics, specifically Robert Esche or Rick DiPietro, was so strong as to nail down a spot as the favorite for the Vancouver Games.
Miller has some experience at this type of competition taking place over a matter of years. He had to outlast, after all, both Martin Biron and Mika Noronen just to land the Sabres starting job.
The likeliest scenario, you have to believe, would see either Miller or DiPietro in the U.S. net four years from now.
Ward, meanwhile, would have to survive a much more difficult set of challenges to reach that point.
Brodeur, for starters, will be 37 by the 2010 Games. Given that he and Mikka Kiprusoff were 1-2 this season as the NHL's best goalies, and given that both Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour were still going strong at that age, you wouldn't put it past the durable Brodeur to still be pushing to be No. 1 for Canada for a third straight Olympics.
Roberto Luongo, meanwhile, will be 30 years ago in 2010, and after years of playing second fiddle to Brodeur internationally, you can bet Luongo will be zeroing in on Vancouver as his time to shine for Team Canada.
Other potential candidates would include Marc-Andre Fleury and Jose Theodore, although he would be 33 by the Vancouver Games and would have to get his game back to an elite level. Perhaps even the likes of Ray Emery or Pascal LeClaire will be the man for Canada by then. Maple Leaf fans, of course, would love to think Justin Pogge would by 2010 be established as the Leaf starter by then at the age of 24 and one of the best in the world.
But maybe it'll be Ward vs. Miller, just as it will be for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.
That's one element that makes you wonder even more what the result of Game 7 will mean not just to the teams, but to the individual reputations and futures on both sides.