With five of the team's key players -- including leading scorer Thomas Raffl (9 goals, 34 points in 28 games) -- slated to suit up for the Austrian national team during a concurrent international tournament in Klagenfurt, Austria, the Red Bull club recruited significant outside help to improve its chances of winning the tourney on home ice. The three-day tournament starts Friday.
The goalies who have manned the pipes for EC Red Bull this season are former Phoenix Coyotes backup Josh Tordjman (24 games, 2.68 GAA, .922 save percentage, one shutout) and Austrian native Thomas Hoeneckl (eight games, 3.94 GAA, .892 save percentage). Tordjman has done a good job as the club's starter, but currently is sidelined by an injury and a recent bout with the flu.
Enter Turco, a former NHL Second-Team All-Star (2002-03) and two-time winner of the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award (highest save percentage in the NHL). Renowned for his puck-handling prowess and remarkable athleticism that enabled him to overcome his lack of size in an era where big goalies are preferred, Turco set numerous franchise goaltending records in Dallas.
However, he struggled at times in his final two seasons with the Stars. Signed as a free agent last season by the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, Turco disappointed and eventually lost the starting job to Corey Crawford. A free agent after the season, Turco was not signed by an NHL team. He has worked as a studio analyst for NHL Network.
Turco, who was unavailable for comment, has said that he is not ready to retire but may be interested in a full-time broadcasting career when his playing days are done. Last month, he reportedly drew interest from the Toronto Maple Leafs while James Reimer was out with an injury. Signing with Red Bull for the Salute tournament gives Turco the opportunity to get back in game shape while playing against teams from many of Europe's top leagues.
The EC Red Bull club is one of the wealthiest in Europe, and often has been able to bring in players with previous NHL and/or major international experience. The team is coached by former NHL coach Pierre Page, whose assistants include former NHL players Reijo Ruotsalainen and Kent Nilsson, and is stocked with notable imports.
ACROSS THE POND
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Aliu, 22, was taken by Chicago in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft and his rights now belong to the Winnipeg Jets. A highly-skilled player with good size and speed, Aliu was playing for the ECHL's Colorado Eagles when he was loaned by the Jets to Salzburg on Dec. 9.
"Aliu is a very interesting player," Page told the Red Bull website. "He is tall, powerful, skillful with the puck, and can play either defense or offense. Akim is very keen to help us. And it's also a great opportunity for him to showcase his talent in Europe."
Redenbach, 27, has gained considerable experience playing in Europe in recent seasons. Selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the third round (No. 77) of the 2003 Entry Draft, Redenbach had 26 goals and 58 points with Providence of the American Hockey League in 2005-06.
Redenbach spent the last two seasons with SaiPa Lappeenranta in Finland's SM-liiga, where he led the club in scoring (44 points in 58 games) in 2009-10 before a disappointing and injury-plagued season in 2010-11. The center had been playing this season in Switzerland for National League B (minor league) team EHC Olten when he was loaned to the Red Bulls for the tournament.
"It's also crucial that we have added a skilled center to the lineup," Page said. "Another advantage is that Redenbach has spent three-and-a-half years in Europe, so he is very familiar with the local (ice) conditions and the way the sport is played here."
Barney, 32, bounced around the North American minor leagues and played 27 NHL games for Los Angeles and Winnipeg before heading to Europe in 2009. After one season in Germany, the big forward has spent most of the last three-plus seasons in Finland with HPK Hämeenlinna.
"I've heard a lot about Pierre Page and the Red Bulls, who are performing very well this season," Barney said. "I also know Ramzi Abid from five years ago, when we both played for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL and when we even shared a room, and I've played on the same line before as Tyler Redenbach."
Glenn, 31, is on loan from Finnish team Ilves Tampere. He has been playing in Europe the last four seasons after failing to advance beyond the AHL level in North America. The defenseman has had some power-play success in the SM-liiga, scoring 9 goals last season and 4 goals so far this season.
In addition to the host team, the 2011 Red Bulls Salute tournament includes three teams from Sweden's Elitserien (Luleå HF, Frölunda Indians Gothenburg and Linköpings HC) one from Finland's SM-liiga (Jokerit Helsinki) and three from the Czech Extraliga (HC Ceske Budejovice, HC Pardubice and HC Plzen 1929).
This year's tournament marks the seventh installment of the competition. The 2007 edition featured participation from the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, who won the tourney in preparation for their participation in that season's NHL Premiere. The host team from Salzburg captured top honors for the first time in 2009. Last year, German team Eisbären Berlin lifted the championship trophy.
For the second time, the 2011 Salute Tournament will double as the final tournament in the European Trophy competition. This season, 24 teams from six European leagues participated. The top eight are playing in Salzburg and Vienna this weekend.