Stars lose backstop Turco for 4 of last 5
March 25, 2004
By J. Douglas Foster
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours.
Quite a fitting phrase for more reasons than one as the Stars take the next two days off in eternally precipitous Vancouver. Not only is it raining outside, but adversity also continues to pile up for the Stars as they continue to chase San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
First, it was subtraction due to injury as seven roster regulars missed Wednesday's overtime victory in Edmonton. Now it's expected league intervention as goaltender Marty Turco was handed a four-game suspension by the NHL Thursday for a high-sticking incident Wednesday involving Edmonton's Ryan Smyth.
That means Turco, the league leader in wins, is out of the lineup until the last game of the regular season, on April 4 against Chicago.
Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong, who got the call from Colin Campbell, said the team would take their medicine and face up to Turco's actions on Wednesday.
"It was a stick to the face, I don't think there is any denying that," Armstrong said. "We accept it and move forward. Hopefully for Marty and the entire organization we can use this as a stepping-stone when the playoffs approach. The intensity is going to rise, the physical contact is going to increase and we have to use this to remember that we have to keep our composure at all times.
"In the playoffs, any slip up in composure can cost you a game and, ultimately, a series."
Armstrong certainly did not try to sidestep the high-stick, the four-minute double minor assessed to Turco or the suspension handed out by the league, which will also cost Turco $195,121.96 in forfeited salary.
He also said it's a lesson for the entire team.
"If we don't learn and grow from it, then shame on us. Not shame on them (the NHL).
"If we get sucked into bad penalties, retaliatory penalties or in a situation where we yell at the referees and lose focus in the game it will haunt us at the most inopportune time. I can guarantee that."
Turco, who returned back to Dallas from the road since he won't be playing the remainder of the trip, also took no public exception to the suspension handed out by the league, and said he understands the NHL is trying to make the game safer for all.
"I know there's a strong stance against sticks and blows to the head," Turco said. "I really didn't know what to expect, but they made their decision and I've got to live with it.
"It was an unfortunate incident, it's something I do regret and now I have to live with my mistakes."
Without Turco -- who has the lowest goals-against average of any player in the NHL during his four professional seasons -- the Stars will have to go through the most crucial stretch of their schedule without the player who could be considered their team MVP.
But for those still in the lineup, they said it must be treated just like the absence of the seven regulars Wednesday night was treated.
You just move on.
"That's what depth is all about," Stars defenseman Don Sweeney said. "At some point you're going to run into it, and apparently this is our time. There's never a good time for it, but this is ours and we all have to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us."
The person with the biggest opportunity in front of him is Ron Tugnutt, who will get the nod in the four games during Turco's absence.
Tugnutt has played very well in his two games since returning from a groin strain, even registering a shutout recently in Chicago. The Stars certainly feel fortunate to have a player of Tugnutt's experience to step in during Turco's absence, and Tugnutt himself is more than confident that he can help.
He even told Turco so before his flight Thursday.
"I told him, 'I'll take care of business here, you take care of what you have to do,'" Tugnutt said. "We'll all learn form this, you just take some time and come back and win some games for us in the playoffs."
Tugnutt also left little question about his job while Turco is out.
"It's disappointing for the team not having Marty here," Tugnutt said. "But I want to keep this ship going the right way.
"I'm planning on winning some games."
*The Stars now have 40 victories this season, making this their seventh 40-win season in the last eight years. Only New Jersey and Detroit have more 40-win seasons during that span than the Stars.
*Turco fell under the NHL's "repeat offenders" category because of his suspension last season after high-sticking Peter Forsberg.
*The Stars might actually get some injured players back for Saturday's game against Vancouver. Stars head coach Dave Tippett said Jason Arnott (groin strain) and Stu Barnes (lower body injury) could both be back in the lineup. In fact, of Arnott, Tippett said this: "I would be very surprised if he's not a player Saturday." Tippett listed Barnes as probable.
*Jon Klemm (groin strain), Sergei Zubov (charley horse) and Jere Lehtinen back spasms) are all day-to-day and most likely won't be in Saturday. Zubov could skate with the team at Saturday's morning skate, but won't be in the lineup, while Lehtinen was expected to skate Thursday in Dallas.
*The Stars have an NHL-best record of 29-3-5-0 this season when scoring the game's first goal. They are unbeaten in 29 straight games when scoring first, going 24-0-5-0.
*When scoring at least two goals this season, the Stars are tied for the league's best record at 38-4-9-0.*Missing Turco on this game is especially painful as he is 19-3-1 against Canadian teams during his two seasons as the Stars' No. 1 goaltender.