The return of league scoring leader Angel McCoughtry and center Erika de Souza could provide the boost the Atlanta Dream need to secure another playoff berth.
The Chicago Sky's postseason chances will likely depend on the health of center Sylvia Fowles and point guard Epiphanny Prince.
Atlanta, the two-time reigning Eastern Conference champion, continues a stretch of eight straight road games Friday night when it returns from the Olympic break seeking its first win in three tries against Chicago in 2012.
The Dream played their final four games before that hiatus without McCoughtry, who had been sidelined by a left knee sprain after scoring 21 points in a 71-69 loss at Chicago on July 1. They split those four contests but were routed 91-70 by San Antonio in its last game July 13.
Atlanta (9-10) is third in the Eastern Conference but just percentage points ahead of the Sky (8-9), who have dropped four straight since last month's victory over the Dream.
McCoughtry is expected to be back in the Atlanta lineup after averaging 10.9 points in the Olympics with a tournament-high 20 steals as the United States won gold.
"I felt like my game went to another level, I felt like I really improved and I really felt that I helped bring a spark off the bench," said McCoughtry, averaging 22.6 points for Atlanta.
Dream coach Marynell Meadors, part of coach Geno Auriemma's staff in London, is hoping for a spark from de Souza, who could make her season debut Friday after training with the Brazil national team leading up to the Olympics.
De Souza was a force inside at the Games with 16.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, but the Brazilians failed to advance past group play with a 1-4 record.
"I'm really excited to come back," de Souza told the Dream's official website. "... I didn't come back here to just be the conference champion - I came here to be the champion of the WNBA."
De Souza's return should help down low against Fowles, averaging 18.5 points and a league-best 12.4 rebounds.
Fowles and forward Swin Cash returned to Chicago this week with gold medals, but the goal now is to help the Sky reach the playoffs for the first time.
"What you're expected to do with the Sky is what you're expected to do with the USA team - you bring what you're good at and you go out there and do it," said Fowles, who missed three of the eight games in London due to a foot injury.
Fowles is expected to play Friday, and it's possible Prince will as well after practicing with the team during the break. Averaging 22.3 points, Prince has been out since June 16 with a fractured right foot, and the Sky have dropped seven of eight in her absence.
Prince had a career-high 33 points in a 94-92 overtime victory at Atlanta on June 2 when Chicago rallied from 22 down in the first quarter. McCoughtry also had 33 in that contest.