(Reuters) - Jarome Iginla chose the Pittsburgh Penguins as a destination over the Boston Bruins two months ago and now the team he spurned stands in the way of a Stanley Cup finals berth.
The longtime Calgary Flames captain waived a no-trade clause and was dealt to the Penguins in March hours after turning down a deal that would have sent him to Boston.
“I was very fortunate that both teams were interested and I was fortunate that Calgary gave me that chance,” Iginla told the Penguins website.
“I know Boston is a great team and it was one of those situations that when I did it, I knew there was a big possibility that we’d be in this situation and here we are. I‘m excited about the challenge.”
The teams will open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh on Saturday to determine who will play the Western Conference representative for the Stanley Cup.
The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins entered the playoffs as the fourth seed but have stepped up their game considerably and boast the postseason’s top scorer in David Krejci, who has 17 points in 12 games.
Pittsburgh, who last won a Stanley Cup in 2009, finished the regular season with the best record in the conference to earn top seeding and have Sidney Crosby showing solid form.
Iginla has fit in nicely with the Penguins and is fourth in team scoring with 12 points in 11 games through the opening two rounds of the playoffs while playing alongside reigning league most valuable player Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
“Playing with ‘G’ and ‘Nealer,’ they have such a great chemistry,” Iginla said.
”They really, really enjoy playing together. So you want to play with them and play hard, but not disrupt that and kind of just find different places to go and contribute to that.
“(Even) if that’s going to the net and getting out of their way...”
Iginla, 35, had played his entire NHL career in Calgary since debuting in 1996, but with the Flames in a rebuilding mode he decided to seek a trade that would give him a shot at winning his first Stanley Cup.
The production from the future Hall of Famer, a three-time Olympian who assisted on Canada’s game-winning goal in the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Games, has not been lost on his current team mates.
“He’s been great, a guy that’s fun to play with and has a great shot and he can get it off all around him,” said Neal.
“So, he’s a tough guy to cover. He’s been doing that really well and getting some rebound goals and helping our team win. So, obviously a huge addition and he’s showing why we got him.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine