PITTSBURGH - Faced with the choice of his hockey life, Jarome Iginla figured he couldn't go wrong.
As the hours before the March 28 trade deadline ticked away and the suitors for the Calgary Flames' longtime captain dwindled down to Boston and Pittsburgh, the six-time All-Star understood both franchises provided him the chance to win his first Stanley Cup.
Only one, however, included the added bonus of playing with good friend Sidney Crosby. And when the Penguins quite literally lured Iginla east in the middle of the night, the ripple effect forced the Bruins to a backup plan that turned out better than they imagined.
Spurned by Iginla, the Bruins acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas hours later. Now the two clubs - and their two high-profile late additions - find themselves in each other's way as the Eastern Conference finals get set to begin Saturday.
"I knew that there was a possibility this would be the case," Iginla said.
The 35-year-old Iginla has fit in almost seamlessly in Pittsburgh, picking up 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 13 regular-season games despite being shuttled between the first and second lines while occasionally being moved away from his natural position at right wing.
Things have been more settled in the postseason. Coach Dan Bylsma placed Iginla on the second line with reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin and All-Star forward James Neal.
The results have been sublime. Iginla quietly rolled up four goals and eight assists in the opening two rounds of the playoffs, his powerful shot and ability to create a little havoc in front of the opposing goaltender perfectly complimenting Malkin's deft passing and Neal's sniper-like instincts.
"You want to play together and play hard and not disrupt (their chemistry)," Iginla said. "So you find different places to go and contribute. Is that going to the net? Getting out of the way in certain positions? Knowing where we all like pucks? I think it's just kind of tying everything together and I've been enjoying it and I think it's been getting better and better."
The result is just the second trip to hockey's final four in Iginla's 16-year career. He led the Flames to the Cup finals in 2004 only to fall to Tampa Bay in seven games. Four straight first-round exits followed before the bottom fell out.
"I think you'll have a hard time finding somebody in this world to fit in better anywhere," Pittsburgh defenseman Douglas Murray said. "He's a great guy and he's obviously a good player. He demands respect right away."
However, respect from the Bruins will come in the form of bodies being thrown into Iginla's path at every turn. He welcomes the challenge, even if the guys slamming him are the ones that could have been his teammates.
"I knew Boston was a great team," Iginla said. "It was one of those situations when I (chose Pittsburgh) that I knew there was a big possibility we'd be in this situation, and here we are. I'm looking forward to the challenge."