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The Florida Panthers had a big decision to make at the trade deadline, and they ultimately decided to keep impending free agent Jay Bouwmeester in hopes of making their first playoff run in nearly a decade.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, made a high-profile addition at the deadline for the second straight year, hoping it has the same effect that last season's big pickup did.

Bill Guerin should make his Penguins debut and Sidney Crosby could be back on the ice Thursday night as Pittsburgh visits Florida looking for its fifth consecutive win.

The Panthers (33-23-8) are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but with Bouwmeester in line to command a lucrative contract as a free agent, rumors swirled that the former third overall pick would be dealt prior to Wednesday's deadline.

Instead of trading the team's star defenseman, Florida added some depth to its blue line, acquiring veteran Steve Eminger from Tampa Bay as it looks to reach the postseason for the first time since 2000.

The Penguins (33-26-6) didn't expect to have any trouble making the playoffs after advancing to the Stanley Cup finals last season, yet find themselves tied for seventh place in the East - two points behind the Panthers.

That position, though, is an improvement from where they were a few weeks ago. Pittsburgh has gone 6-1-1 since interim coach Dan Bylsma took over, and it's won four straight with Crosby out due to a groin injury.

"We're getting some confidence," Marc-Andre Fleury said after making 32 saves Tuesday in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay. "We're battling for the big points we're getting."

While the Penguins await Crosby's return - it could come Thursday depending on how he feels after the team's morning skate - general manager Ray Shero has done what he can to get his captain some help.

Shero acquired winger Chris Kunitz from Anaheim last week to eventually play on Crosby's line, and Kunitz has three goals in three games.

On Wednesday, Shero acquired Guerin - also expected to eventually play alongside Crosby - from the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick. He also added checking forward Craig Adams from Chicago.

The 38-year-old Guerin is a former 40-goal scorer, and he led the Islanders with 16 this season.

"I think it's worth a chance with a Billy Guerin, that playing with good players he will be able to score goals. I'm hoping he can re-energize his career here in Pittsburgh," Shero said.

Shero can only hope this deal comes close to having the impact of last year's stunning last-second trade for star forward Marian Hossa. Paired with Crosby, Hossa helped fuel the Pens' run to the Stanley Cup finals, but Hossa joined Detroit as a free agent in the offseason and Pittsburgh has struggled to fill the hole on Crosby's line.

The Panthers are returning home after going 3-2-0 on a five-game road trip. Florida suffered five-goal losses to Boston and New Jersey to start the trip, but bounced back with a 6-2 win over Washington on Sunday and a 4-3 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday.

Michael Frolik, Florida's 2006 first-round pick, had two goals versus the Thrashers to give him 17 this season.

"Atlanta is an offensively potent team, and you have to be real weary of them," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We bent, but we didn't break, and found a way to score some goals."

While the Penguins hope to get Crosby back, the Panthers would like to see David Booth return Thursday. Booth, Florida's leading scorer with 21 goals, missed the win in Atlanta with sore ribs and is day-to-day.

Booth assisted on one of Nathan Horton's two goals in Florida's 6-1 win at Mellon Arena on Jan. 3. The teams have two more meetings after this one, the next coming Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

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