PITTSBURGH (AP) - Bill Guerin was in limbo as the NHL trade deadline approached.
It was clear his days with the last-place New York Islanders were done, and just a matter of time before he was unloaded. When the chance came to join the Pittsburgh Penguins and play alongside Sidney Crosby, Guerin was ready.
"Playing with Sid has been great," said Guerin, who is 38 and in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1995. "He has really forced me to pick up my game, which has been nice. He has done a lot for me."
Guerin scored five goals and added seven assists in 17 regular-season games after the March 4 trade as the Penguins rose from out of the playoff picture to the No. 4 seed in the East.
In 19 playoff games, Guerin has chipped in seven more goals and 15 points - making him Pittsburgh's third-highest scorer.
"Coming to Pittsburgh and being involved in games that, I hate to use 'mean something' because all the games mean something, but right away my first game with the Penguins in Florida we were fighting for our playoff lives," Guerin said. "My second game was in Washington, so it was the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry. It just felt really good to be involved in big games again and having a significant role in those.
"I definitely needed it because I am an emotional player. When games just start being games and not meaning much, I think it affects me."
That is exactly what happened on Long Island, where Guerin was in the last season of a two-year deal but suddenly caught up in a youth movement. Rookie coach Scott Gordon joined the Islanders from the AHL, and by the time Christmas came, it was obvious New York would be near the bottom of the standings all season.
Gordon gave his up-and-coming youngsters more ice time at the expense of veterans like Guerin, who had 16 goals and 20 assists in 61 games with New York.
When Guerin became expendable, Penguins general manager Ray Shero jumped at the chance to land a scoring forward - a position unfilled since Marian Hossa left the Penguins for the Red Wings last summer.
All it took was a conditional draft pick. In his first game with the Penguins, Guerin earned his 800th NHL point by assisting on Crosby's goal.
"We had scouted him quite a bit the last month, month-and-a-half or so," Shero said. "He certainly was not at the top of his game.
"We just felt that given the cost to acquire him, that in the hole that we had, could he rekindle the magic and enthusiasm for the game? Because we thought he could still skate. Obviously, he's answered that question and he's done a great job. He's always had a winning background, no different than Ruslan Fedotenko, Miroslav Satan."
Fedotenko and Satan were also lost in New York's transition and left the Islanders as free agents before this season. Satan was forced to go to the minors upon Guerin's arrival to free salary cap space. He has returned and put up a goal and five assists during the playoffs.
Fedotenko had scored in three straight games before being blanked by the Wings in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Guerin, who can become a free agent this summer, is no stranger to being a rental player. It didn't work out when he was sent from St. Louis to San Jose in 2007. He had no playoff goals and two assists, and the Sharks didn't make a long run.
He has been held to one assist by the Red Wings, who have won the first two games of the finals by 3-1 scores and moved on to Pittsburgh in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Game 3 is Tuesday night.
"He's brought a lot certainly on the ice," Crosby said. "He's played great. He's got a great shot. He's a big body out there. He can make smart, simple plays.
"Off the ice he's provided a lot of leadership and provided that experience for us. For me, personally, he's been a guy I can lean on ... bounce things off of. He keeps things pretty loose. He's a guy that's fun to be around, so he's really helped."
The 21-year-old Crosby is pointless in back-to-back playoff games for the first time since last year's finals with the Red Wings.
"Sid is such a competitor," said Guerin, a captain this season with the Islanders. "He is the hardest-working guy in practice. When something is not done right, he wants to do it again. He'll do it 50 times until it's done right.
"For a guy like me that can use my age and being tired all the time as an excuse, he forces me to skate and get out there and put in a good effort in practice and during games. Hopefully, I have had a positive effect on him because he's definitely had one on me."