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Giving credit where credit is due

Friday, 02.06.2009 / 10:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - Sr. Editorial Director

Turnabout is said to be fair play, so in the spirit of fair play, we present Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars.

Early on this season, Turco was offered up as one of the main reasons why the Stars were struggling. Now, he must receive the accolades for getting the Stars back into Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

Turco didn't win back-to-back games until Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 this season, which was both surprising and disturbing for one of the NHL's best goalies. He had only six victories in his first 20 appearances this season.

Turco was in goal Thursday night against Colorado and also wanted to play Friday against the visiting Rangers and Sunday's home game against Nashville.

"We'll obviously talk after the first game, but he wants to play them all," Stars coach Dave Tippett told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "He feels great about his game. He doesn't want any rest right now."

Heading into the game against Colorado, Turco was 6-1-0 in his last seven games, with a 1.70 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Those are the kind of numbers that can carry a team a long way.

"I feel good right now, that I've come a long way," Turco told Heika. "My ability to stay on my feet longer to react to second plays or even third plays from a balanced position has been a great feeling for me lately.

"I have been fighting my body and my movements this year, and I've worked hard to get that back. I just want to be the guy they deserve back there."

He certainly is playing like that guy of late.

"No matter what you do, your goaltending has to be good," Tippett said. "It can do so much for the team's confidence. It can allow players to overcome mistakes, it can change a game with a big stop early or late. Marty has done that for us lately."

"Marty has been great," forward Jere Lehtinen said. "He's been huge in all of these wins in the last month and a half. I think the whole team is playing more confident, but he's been a big part."

That's good writin' Dickie -- A lift of the lid to Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe for this line in the Feb. 5 edition.

"Can anything derail these defensively minded Bruins, who stick to coach Claude Julien's game plan like a pack of paparazzi hot after Paris Hilton?"

Hossa flagged -- Here is a marketing idea Marian Hossa may grow to hate in a hurry.

At Wednesday night's game against the Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena, fans received a 3-by-5-foot flag of Hossa. Not that that's a bad thing. What makes it kind of dicey is Hossa's teammates got their own flags of their teammate Tuesday.

Trust me, this is not the kind of stuff you want unleashed in a room full of hockey players. And as Helene St. James reported in the Detroit Free Press, all manner of hilarity ensued.
"Jiri Hudler wrapped it around his shoulders like a Superman cape (he also was wearing a flak jacket because Dan Cleary was running around with a toy gun) and flitted around the locker room (if I had a camera phone I'd have included a picture; as it is, there's one of the flag itself)," St. James wrote.

The Hossa flag was bound for all sorts of destinations in Red Wings world.

"I'll put it in my bedroom. Over my bed, maybe," Niklas Kronwall said.

"I'm going to put it on my bathroom wall," Tomas Kopecky said. "Or maybe I'll put it in my bedroom, on the ceiling, so when I sleep I can see him. I don't get enough of him."

"I'll probably put it in my basement," Henrik Zetterberg said.

Hossa probably will end up putting his in his ears to muffle the comments of his teammates.

Forget "laid back" California -- Hockey and California are said not to mix because of the good weather that greets Californians on most days and the laid-back atmosphere that abounds in the state.

But according to a lot of NHL types, there is no laid-back atmosphere in San Jose's "Shark Tank;" rather, the scene is as intense as you would find in Montreal, Toronto, New York or Philadelphia.

"That is just a tough place to play," the Penguins' Jordan Staal told Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News after a recent game in the Tank.

Heading into play Thursday night, the Sharks had the best home record at 23-2-2. The Washington Capitals, well on their way to turning "The District" into a hockey town, are 21-3-1.

"It's the toughest building to play in the League," Chicago's Patrick Sharp told Emmons after Chicago scored a rare win in San Jose.

"It doesn't matter what day of the week, it's a packed house and they seem excited," Sharks forward Mike Grier said. "It makes it easier to get up for a game, because the crowd gives you a little extra push."

"Obviously their success has a lot to do with the team," Staal said. "But it's also a really engaged crowd. It can be really boisterous. That can get inside your head, especially if you get down a goal. Then it's a situation where you have to work really hard to turn that around, because they're very good fans."

"It's a fun place to play for both teams because there's a lot of electricity," Joe Thornton said. "You go into some buildings and you really have to create that yourself. I much prefer playing in buildings that have some noise going and the fans are enthusiastic."

Hey, I know you! -- This fun note also comes from the Boston Globe's Kevin Dupont.

In the States this week, Denny's restaurants offered free "Grand Slam" breakfasts on Tuesday, and it got quite the response. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas had to laugh when he saw the front page of USA Today and three people he "knew" were lined up for the free vittles in Saginaw, Mich.

"I think you're right about that," said Thomas, playing right along with the visitor's joke, "of course, they did spend $10 in gas to get themselves a $5 breakfast."

"And that's why they are your friends," said the wag.

"Exactly," said the goalie.

Good news, bad news -- On the one hand, Brian Lawton was happy to see Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier step in to defend a teammate in Tuesday night's loss to the Islanders.

On the other hand, the Lightning GM was not pleased that Lecavalier didn't have any reinforcements.

"I was extremely, extremely disappointed with our players," Lawton told Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times. "Vinny did the most noble thing he could do in his position outside of scoring, which is stand up for the team, and the team didn't respond for him. That was very hurtful, disappointing and upsetting."

The Islanders' Tim Jackman had run over Bolts goalie Karri Ramo to spark Lecavalier's anger in the 3-1 Islanders victory.

"I was disappointed with the players' reactions not to respond," Lawton said. "Personally, it really hurt me. It hurt our fans. It hurt our coaches. It wasn't a good thing."

"I don't know if he meant to hit him. Probably not," Lecavalier said. "But he hit him pretty hard. ... I think any time someone hits your goalie like that, whoever is there should do something, and it just happens I was the first guy there."

The good-bad part of this wasn't lost on coach Rick Tocchet, either. Tocchet would have done exactly the same thing as Lecavalier during his NHL career.

"I loved it," Tocchet said. "The alarming part is that after your captain does that, your guys don't respond in a good way."

Your turn -- Conventional hockey wisdom says pick a goalie and stick with him, especially in the stretch drive of the season.

But in Chicago, Joel Quenneville is enjoying having two capable goalies in Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet.

"We've been saying maybe it'll be sorted out and be clearer what we're doing, but here we are where we're at," Quenneville told Tim Sassone of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald. Quenneville said the final decision may come as late as the start of the playoffs.

"Absolutely, especially when you don't have to make those decisions," he said. "It's a healthy situation and it's been great. You've got to commend both goalies, who I'm sure would want to play more."

Who do you play for? -- Anyone who ever watched the movie "Miracle" as Kurt Russell shouted out the line time and again as he (Herb Brooks really) bag skated the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.

New York Rangers coach Tom Renney doesn't indulge in "gassers" terribly often, but he has not been pleased with his team's recent play and was even unhappier after 25 minutes of a recent practice, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.

The result? Innumerable wind sprints and lots of no-puck drills.

"We have to make a commitment to some of the little things that teams who want to win on a regular basis need to do," Renney said. "I had a pretty good practice lined up, we were going to do some good things, but maybe we did the best thing we could have done for ourselves today."

Gentlemen, do I have your attention?

"You could see it probably on the verge of coming," captain Chris Drury said. "It certainly grabbed our attention."

"We've got to realize what the message is and move forward," Wade Redden said. "We've got to be accountable to each other, and that's one way to get the message across. If we go out and play hard, we won't have to deal with (punishment) again."

Classy way out -- There was no finger pointing from Craig Hartsburg when he met with the media after being dismissed as head coach of the Ottawa Senators Sunday night.

"I'm not the type of person to make excuses and blame others," he said. "I look in the mirror first."

Hartsburg's Senators were 17-24-7 and well out of a playoff spot when he was replaced by Cory Clouston.

For Hartsburg, who was in his first season in Ottawa, the poor results were disappointing and frustrating.
"I have been fighting my body and my movements this year, and I've worked hard to get that back. I just want to be the guy they deserve back there." -- Marty Turco
"I'm very disappointed in what has happened, both in being fired and also in how our team has played," Hartsburg said in a prepared statement. "I'm not here to make excuses or blame others. As a coach I take great pride in my team's work ethic, high level of competing and team play. I take responsibility for those not being good enough.

"I feel bad for letting (GM) Bryan (Murray) down. Bryan is a good man. I want to wish the players the best. They are a good bunch of guys and I hope they turn things around very quickly. I leave here knowing that I did my best and I guess my best just wasn't good enough. I tried to treat people the right way, with respect and integrity.

"And I wish Cory all the best. Hopefully a different voice makes a big difference."

Hartsburg said the team's poor play has to be chalked up to a team effort.

"I don't think it's just about certain players," he said. "I think it's the team itself. To me, we didn't (consistently) get the work habits and competing and playing a good team game with structure. It certainly shouldn't fall on any one group of players' laps. It was my responsibility to get those things done and it didn't happen."

Getting the message -- Thomas Vanek, who entered the weekend tied for second in the League with 32 goals, doesn't get a lot of slack from Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, which is one of the reasons Ruff is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL -- everyone is accountable.

"Obviously their success has a lot to do with the team, but it's also a really engaged crowd. It can be really boisterous. That can get inside your head, especially if you get down a goal. Then it's a situation where you have to work really hard to turn that around, because they're very good fans."
-- Jordan Staal, on San Jose's fans

Monday night in Anaheim, Vanek took only two shifts in the last 13 minutes of a 3-2 loss to the Ducks. Vanek evidently got the message that his coach wasn't happy and went out Wednesday and scored a natural hat trick in a 5-0 win against the Maple Leafs.

"When I'm not playing well, I think he likes to sit me down for a few shifts or a period and make me think about it," Vanek told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. "Is it something I enjoy? Definitely not. I would like to keep playing through when I'm struggling, but that's the way it is."

According to Harrington, Ruff sat Vanek for stretches several times last season and the two also have had some conversations about what is expected.

For his part, Ruff disagreed that Monday night represented a benching.

"It's a pretty minor benching," Ruff said. "I think he played 16 minutes or something. It's a couple shifts. Benchings are a little more severe. It was just a message that things hadn't gone good enough. We spent some time (Wednesday) morning talking about it again, went over some of the situations."

"I'm used to it. It's not the first time I got benched," Vanek said. "You deal with it, you watch the video, see what you can do better and go out the next night. You can't pout about it. If you do, before you know it a week or two passes by and you might be in the stands. Early on in my career I dwelled on it. It wasn't the first time it happened. Other guys played better and you just acknowledge it."

Always welcome -- Flames coach Mike Keenan said he had no problem with Calgary GM Darryl Sutter visiting the dressing room for a "chat" with the players after a 3-1 loss to Dallas.

A day after the 3-1 loss to the Stars in Dallas, Keenan suggested he welcomes the occasional locker-room visit from his boss.

"It's not an issue," Keenan told reporters. "You know you're getting an honest message from Darryl. I've worked with him for a long time. I embrace his input and the group learns from it. He brings a different voice and a different perspective -- he's watching the game from above as opposed to ice level.

"The message was very clear. We know that we want to continue to improve, and it's as simple as that.

"The bar's being raised here because of our successes. It's a matter of teaching and continuing to teach our group what the responsibilities are and the expectations are when you do become more successful.

"It takes constant improvement to continue to win in this League."

Quote of the Day

Well, for me this one's concerning, the way we performed. Because three games in, playing a desperate team on the road, I was expecting something else than this. Right now, I'm just disappointed. The other games, I thought we did some things that you can build off your game. There wasn't a lot accomplished in tonight's game.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards after a 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Monday dropped Columbus to 0-3-0
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