The bottom line on Friday’s game between the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center is that there are crucial points up for grabs in the Western Conference playoff race. But this game comes with a sidebar story and it’s a great one as ex-Stars goaltender Marty Turco will make his first start against his former team.
"Pretty excited about it," Turco told ESPNChicago.com. "My family is going to come on down, and we'll see some old friends. It's not that far removed.”
It’s been almost ten months since Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk announced that the Stars would not re-sign Turco, who had been with Dallas nine seasons and had been the team’s No. 1 goalie for seven. The Stars, Nieuwendyk said, were heading in a different direction in net with Kari Lehtonen, acquired prior to last season’s trade deadline.
Turco signed with the Chicago over the summer and it’s been a bumpy ride in the Windy City. He’s 11-11-2 with a 3.10 goals against average and a .896 save percentage. He has started in only three of the last 15 games and is now backing up Corey Crawford, who is the No. 1 guy right now.
But Friday night Turco will take center stage in Dallas, where he holds most of the franchise’s regular season goaltending records.
"It was a great time in my life," Turco told ESPNChicago.com. "As the game day goes on, I'll get a little more excited and anxious. But come drop of the puck I'm not staring at faces, I'm staring at that little blacking thing out there and trying to give this team a chance to win. It's going to be a fun time and something that's going to be quite memorable. It's the first time I've done something like this in my career."
It’s going to be different for his former teammates as well. Stars captain Brenden Morrow and Turco were teammates from 2000-01 through last season.
“It will be tough on my calves. He’s pretty good with the stick,” Morrow said with a smile. “It will be different. Ten years or so together and everything we went through together. It will be a little weird.”
Morrow and Turco weren’t just teammates, they were close friends as well.
“Car pool, roommates, all that kind of stuff,” said Morrow. “We saw a lot of each other over the years.”
Stars forward Steve Ott and Turco first became teammates in Dallas during the 2002-03 season, Turco’s first campaign as the team’s No. 1 goalie.
"It's going to be exciting. When you get to play against a friend and compete against a friend on a different level it definitely makes it exciting,” said Ott. “Like a brotherly rivalry, you always want to beat your brother or your friend. I know he's going be pumped and pretty amped up, so we're going to have to show our 'A' game because he is definitely going to want to be a spoiler.”
Both teams will need their ‘A’ game because of the importance of the points at stake and their importance in the playoff race.
Chicago is 2-4-0 in its last six games and currently sits in 11th place in the Western Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.
“The only important thing are those two points for us,” said Turco. “Just look at the Western Conference standings. It’s incredible how tight they are and the disservice we’ve done ourselves by getting behind and out of the playoff picture. “
The Stars are 0-3-1 since the All-Star break and 1-5-1 over their last seven games. That slide has allowed teams to gain ground on them in the playoff race. Over the seven-game slide, their lead in the Pacific Division has gone from six points to zero and their lead over ninth place in West has been carved from ten points to five.
“We’ve got to concentrate on finding a way to win. It’s always a big game when players come back to their former building and I am sure for Marty it will be a huge, emotional game,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “For us, it doesn’t change what our focus needs to be. It’s just another added element to maybe shape our focus and again to reassert to our people how important it is that we do the things that make us successful.
“Marty was a big part of this franchise and a big part of the success that it had for the time that he was here. He was not only a good Dallas Star, but he was also really good in the community. Those things are appreciated and I am sure Marty will be appreciated [Friday] night. It doesn’t change the fact that we need two points and we need to beat those guys.”
Turco’s Dallas highlights
Here are some of the highlights of Marty Turco’s career in Dallas.
Stars career leader in wins (262, shutouts (40) and games (509)
Ranks third in career goals against average (2.31)
Holds record for career assists by a Stars goaltender (22)
Posted six straight 30-win seasons from 2002-03 through 2008-09
Set franchise mark with 74 games played in 2008-09
Tied NHL record with three shutouts in a playoff series (2007 vs. Vancouver)
Set a franchise record 165:45 scoreless streak in 2007 playoffs
Set franchise records for wins in a season (41) in 2005-06
Set the franchise mark for the longest unbeaten streak by a goaltender (16) in 2002-03
Posted the best goals against average in league history since WW II in 2002-03 (1.72)
Had a .932 save percentage in 2002-03, the second best since the stat was introduced (1976-77)
Finished second in 2002-03 Vezina Trophy voting in his first year as an NHL starter