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Turco puts vacation on hold

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / March 8, 2012
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WILMINGTON - Marty Turco had plans to go on an Italian vacation to Venice, Florence, and Rome with his wife and daughters once his EC Red Bull Salzburg hockey club was eliminated from the playoffs in the Austrian First Division.

But those plans were put on hold when Turco, a 36-year-old goaltender with 10 NHL seasons on his résumé, received an urgent call from Bruins general Peter Chiarelli after Tuukka Rask was lost for 4-6 weeks with a lower abdomen/groin strain.

And so it was Wednesday afternoon, after enduring a nine-hour flight Tuesday to Toronto to join the Bruins for their 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs, that Turco found himself on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for his first practice with his new team.

“Today was good, actually,’’ said Turco, who was signed to a one-year contract Monday and cleared waivers Wednesday.

Because he was acquired after the NHL trading deadline, Turco will not be eligible to compete in the playoffs.

“I was a little bit apprehensive - not that I’ve done it too often, coming off a long travel day from Europe,’’ Turco said. “But it was good to be back on the ice, in some bright lights, facing some NHL players, never mind the Boston Bruins.’’

Michael Hutchinson, who will be sent back down to Providence, was the first goaltender to take the ice Wednesday afternoon. He was followed by starter Tim Thomas. Turco didn’t emerge from the dressing room until 12:02 p.m., after he had cleared the noon waiver deadline.

“Well, it’s just another chapter in the book,’’ Turco said, chuckling. “You get dressed, get prepared to practice, but you’ve got to agree with the rules and wait to get the nod, so you sit there in the bullpen. I felt like I was 15 years old again, waiting to practice with the big boys.

“It was an even better feeling when I got the thumbs up from Pete. So I got out there with some excitement in the blood.’’

Said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, “He looked pretty good. He probably wasn’t switched completely, time-wise, from European time. But there’s no question his qualities as a player, as a person, and as a leader, we’re happy to have him on board. It’s a great fit.’’

Coach Claude Julien took a wait-and-see attitude when asked how much help Turco could give Thomas over the final 17 games of the regular season.

“We just got him on the ice for the first day, and if he’s ready to go soon, we’ll see him soon,’’ Julien said. “If we have to give him a little bit of time, we’ll give him some time. But I’d say at this point, I got to play it by ear.’’

Turco said it was his objective to give the Bruins “all they can handle in practice,’’ but he seemed to get all he could handle when he was thrown in against the likes of Chara - who may have the most fearsome slap shot in the league - Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin.

“You’ll probably laugh, but Z threw me some creampuffs,’’ Turco said. “It’s more fun to play here. You’ve got the best players in the world in the NHL. This team and the talent level they have, it’s fun.’’

Asked if he intentionally laid off his slap shot, Chara said, “No, because everyone realizes he’s been traveling quite a bit and I’m sure he was feeling a little bit tired, but he got a regular practice in and he made some really big saves and he looked pretty good.’’

A veteran of 538 regular-season games with the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks, Turco has a 273-165-66 career record with a .910 save percentage, 2.35 goals-against average, and 41 shutouts. He had six 30-win seasons, most recently in 2008-09 with the Stars.

After spending 2010-11 with the Blackhawks, going 11-11-3 with a 3.02 GAA and an .897 save percentage, Turco was left dangling as a free agent this season. He wound up with EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, figuring that’s where his career would end once the NHL trade deadline came and went.

“I assumed I was over and done with, period,’’ he said. “I was playing for another team in the middle of the playoffs and that’s where my heart and head were at.

“Unfortunately, we lost over there, but the bright side for me, personally, was it gave me an opportunity for this to happen. It’s crazy how this happened, but I’m the kind of guy who looks forward and not behind, and as appreciative as I am, in my eyes, the work is just beginning for me.’’

Defenseman Andrew Ference (lower body) and left winger Daniel Paille (upper body) returned to the ice Wednesday, skating on their own before the team took to the ice. Asked if they were getting closer to returning, Julien replied, “Well, they skated for the first time today on their own, so that’s a good sign. They’re still, again, day to day, which I would say they’re doubtful for [Thursday night] unless something miraculous happens in the next 24 hours. We don’t anticipate them being out too long.’’ . . . Benoit Pouliot did not practice after suffering a lower-body injury in the second period Tuesday. “He’s day to day,’’ Julien said. “We kept him off the ice today, again more as a precaution. We’ll see how he is tomorrow and make a decision then based on whether he’s feeling good, better, or whether he can go or not.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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