VANCOUVER, British Columbia (ESPN) -- 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.
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
"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
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