Shelley suspended 3 games for fighting

Updated: March 26, 2004, 1:32 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Dallas Stars lost goaltender Marty Turco just when they need him most.

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.

Clement: Suspension hurts Stars
Marty Turco's suspension shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. It's bad enough the incident clearly happened after the play was over and that Marty Turco is a repeat offender, but on top of that the NHL is very sensitive to players taking blows to the head.

This was probably the worst time for Turco's suspension for the Stars because now they have to play without their top goalie for four of their last five games. Right now, the Stars are only two points ahead of Vancouver for home-ice advantage in the first round. Due to their impressive home-ice (25-6-8-0) record and losing record on the road (15-18-5-0), it's imperative the Stars play at home in the playoffs.

The Stars don't need this type of pressure to fall on the shoulders of backup goalie Ron Tugnutt. He hasn't had to deal with this type of pressure in several seasons and it doesn't help that three of the four games will be on the road including one in Vancouver. The lone positive for the Stars is that Turco will be allowed to take full practices with the team over the next 10 days.
-- ESPN's Bill Clement

The league also suspended Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jody Shelley for three games for fighting against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

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 win.

Smyth clipped Turco's mask with his stick while cutting through the crease earlier on the play, but Turco insisted the hit was not intentional.

"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 last week.

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 bit."

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 Wild.

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.

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