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Bill Guerin reunited with Joe Thornton as Sharks get ready for playoff push

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Bill Guerin reunited with Joe Thornton as Sharks get ready for playoff push

The Canadian Press
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"I'm very excited about the trade," Guerin said during a conference call set up by his new team while he waited in the airport in St. Louis for a flight west. "This is great opportunity for me."

The Blues got a first-round 2007 draft pick, little-used forward Ville Nieminen and Jay Barriball, a forward who leads the University of Minnesota varsity team in scoring.

Guerin, 36, is making US$2 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

He has revitalized his career in his first season with St. Louis, scoring 28 goals and amassing 47 points in his 14th NHL season. The bruising power forward waived his no-trade clause to join the Sharks, who expect to contend for the Stanley Cup. They were fifth in the Western Conference with a 38-24-1 record and 77 points going into Tuesday games.

Guerin and Thornton were teammates in Boston for nearly two full seasons. They were key men on the Bruins' power play. In one of those seasons, Guerin scored 41 goals. Guerin didn't often play on the same line as Thornton, but they could quickly become Sharks linemates along with Jonathan Cheechoo.

Guerin's natural position is right wing but he'd have to be on the left side to skate with Thornton and Cheechoo. He's done it before. He played left wing for nearly a full season when he was with the Edmonton Oilers.

"If that's what they need me to do, I'll be fine with that," he said. "I played on a line with Joe at times when we were in Boston. He's a heck of a player."

Coach Ron Wilson will decide where he plays.

"They've just got so much talent up front that it doesn't really matter," Guerin said. "Wherever he wants to put me, wherever he thinks I'll fit best.

"Because I know they've been having success this year, wherever I go, that'll be just fine - we'll make it work."

Guerin was aiming to be on the ice for the morning skate and in the lineup for a home game against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.

"I think I just have to come in and play my game - play the way they expect me to play, be a good addition to the locker room, and help this team make some strides," he said. "They have a core of young players and I'll just try to fit in as best I can."

Guerin, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, figured he'd be traded. He'd heard as many as 15 teams mentioned in the last month, he said.

"You never know where you're going to wind up. It was a pretty nerve-wracking time," he said.

GM Doug Wilson was elated to get him. He also was happy to get defenceman Craig Rivet from the Montreal Canadiens last weekend.

"If anybody had told me before the trade deadline we'd come out with these players, I'd have been pretty pleased," said Wilson.

On Guerin, he added: "He's not only a great addition, I think he'll integrate in very well with everybody. A player like this having a year like he's having, and with a Stanley Cup on his resume, a lot of teams were looking at him. Getting this type of player up front was our ultimate goal."

Wilson says the Sharks now have lineup depth comparable to any team in the league.

The Blues were in sell mode. They're out of the playoff picture with a 26-27-9 record and 61 points.

"A big trade always shakes up a team," Guerin said of the Blues. "They've got very professional guys here, resilient guys, guys that have bounced back from a lot.

"We dug ourselves out of a huge hole that we created at the beginning of the year. There are some character guys, some quality guys here. Maybe it stings right now but nobody here in St. Louis is going to roll over."

In 1,010 career games with New Jersey, Edmonton, Boston and St. Louis, Guerin has collected 356 goals and 354 assists.

Rivet cost the Sharks defenceman Josh Gorges and their own first-round pick.

With Nashville acquiring Peter Forsberg and Detroit adding Todd Bertuzzi, the Sharks didn't want to be left behind.

So, Wilson used San Jose's stockpile of draft picks and prospects to add two playoff-tested veterans for the season's final 19 games - even if they're only rentals. Guerin has won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey, and Rivet has been a solid contributor to the Canadiens for 11 seasons.

Guerin will be the Sharks' oldest player - more than three years older than Rivet.

Wilson traded Scott Parker to Colorado for a draft pick to make room from Guerin.

The Sharks acquired Nieminen last season from the New York Rangers, but the Finnish forward had been in coach Ron Wilson's doghouse all season. Nieminen has a goal and an assist in 30 games this season. Barriball was San Jose's seventh-round pick in 2006.

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Bill Guerin reunited with Joe Thornton as Sharks get ready for playoff push