With the Pacific Division title and home-ice advantage in the
playoffs on the line this weekend, the NHL suspended Turco for four
games without pay on Thursday for hitting the Oilers' Ryan Smyth in
the mouth with his stick the previous night.
Dallas, currently fourth in the Western Conference, takes a
two-point lead over Vancouver heading into its game with the
Canucks on Saturday. The Stars then play in San Jose on Sunday, a
team they trail by one point in the Pacific.
"Any time you lose your best player, it's a big blow to the
team," said Bill Guerin, the Stars' leading scorer. "It's not
good timing, it never would be, but this is bad timing."
Turco, who leads the NHL with 36 wins and is second with nine
shutouts, hit Smyth in the first period of Dallas' 4-3 overtime
Smyth clipped Turco's mask with his stick while cutting through
the crease earlier on the play, but Turco insisted the hit was not
"I wasn't reacting in anger or retaliation for anything,"
Turco said over the phone on his way to the airport to fly home to
Dallas. "I'm watching the puck and feel the hit while a shot's
being taken. I didn't know even who did it for sure, but on my end
there was no intent, not even to stroke anyone.
"It was just an instinctive move of my hand, it wasn't
malicious on my part and I didn't mean for it to happen, but it did
and this is where we are now."
Turco, considered a repeat offender after being suspended one
game for a similar stick infraction against Colorado's Peter Forsberg in January 2003, forfeits $195,121.96 in salary.
None of the Stars were surprised by the length of the
suspension, especially after Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi
sucker-punched Colorado's Steve Moore two weeks ago, and Toronto's
Wade Belak hit Colorado's Ossi Vaananen with a wild stick swing
Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the regular season and
playoffs and must apply for reinstatement before the start of next
season. Belak was suspended for the final six regular-season games
and the first two of the playoffs.
"It's a bad deal for us, but that's the way the league is
cracking down right now," Stars captain Mike Modano said. "The
incident on tape was a little bit harsh, but it's good the league
is finally throwing the hammer down and trying to clean it up a
Turco, who has compiled a 36-21-13 record, a 1.98 goals-against
average and a .912 save percentage, is eligible to return for the
final regular-season game, April 4 against Chicago Blackhawks.
With Turco out, Dallas turns to veteran Ron Tugnutt, who is
3-3-0 in just seven appearances. The Stars also recalled
21-year-old Jason Bacashihua from Utah of the AHL.
Shelley, who forfeits $21,036 in salary, was given a minor
penalty for roughing, a major for fighting and a misconduct penalty
at 6:01 of the second period in Wednesday's 2-0 win against the
Shelley and Minnesota defenseman Alex Henry were tied up along the boards in the second period when Shelley landed a punch to Henry's head.
Henry had a black eye and a forehead cut that required seven stitches.
"I respect the role [Shelley] has," he said. "I have been in
that role before, too. When someone does something like that,
you lose respect for a guy."
Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.