Lots of reunion stories against the Stars
Kind of lost in the hoopla surrounding Brad Richards' return to the St. Pete Times Forum tonight with the Stars are some of the other stories around the game. Remember, goalie Mike Smith and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern came from Dallas in that deal as well. So, here is what we're looking at as well:
Smith vs. Marty Turco: This is a friendly rivalry if there ever was one. Turco took Smith under his wing when Smith was his backup. He let him stay at the house for a while and then was a tutor and mentor for four seasons, two in Dallas.
"He was fresh out of junior and his size and athleticism were quite apparent," Turco said. "He was at a stage he needed to get determined and see how far he wanted to take his skill level and improve upon it, and he did. It was a sight to see after a couple of years his overall improvement in his game and technique and ability."
"He was great," Smith said. "By no means did he want anything else than the best for me. I was fortunate to be put in a situation like that."
How did Turco help Smith?
"I played the puck, but knowing when to play it and where to play it and when to leave it and not be so aggressive, that was the biggest thing," Smith said.
Said Turco: "It wasn't telling him what to do but just showing him. But that man worked really hard and he's a competitive (expletive), which is a great thing to be. He's one of those guys who's going to be a rock and he's proved it this year."
Another storyline is Jokinen and Dallas' Jere Lehtinen. Jokinen called his fellow Finn a mentor during his three seasons in Dallas.
"How hard he worked," Jokinen said of what he took from Lehtinen. "He's so good defensively, and he can score. He's close to being a perfect player."
Halpern said the best way to evaluate the trade is to take himself and Jokinen out of it. So, h said, simply evaluating Smith for Richards, "It was a great trade for Tampa Bay. I can't say enough good things about Smitty. I think he's the best goaltender in the National Hockey League. He's a guy ... he will win a Stanley Cup. I hope I'm around when that happens."
As for Richards, he said a dinner Sunday night with friends Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis brought back some good memories and made all realize how lucky they were in 2004 to win the Stanley Cup.
"How fast it goes by, and how you want another one so bad," he said the trio realized. "We kind of got spoiled there, so young. You think they're just going to come around every couple of years, and five years later it's still a battle. It makes you appreciate it."
Other stuff from this morning: With Paul Ranger, Matt Smaby and Marek Malik out because of injuries, Tampa Bay was looking at a blue line of Andrej Meszaros, Lukas Krajicek, Steve Eminger, Kevin Quick and convertde forward David Koci. Out of necessity, it grabbed Cory Murphy off re-call waivers from the Panthers. He had been assigned him to ECHL Florida. The teams will share the remainder of his $875,000 salary. Murphy, 30, played just seven games for the Panthers this season before re-injuring a shoulder that kept him out of 30 last season. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. ... Goalie Dustin Tokarski, a Lightning prospect who helped lead Canada to the world junior title, has a few days off from WHL Spokane, thanks to the schedule maker, so the team brought him down for some meeting and greeting with media and fans. "Obviously, watching the goalies," he said during the morning skate. "They're here for a reason. They're the best. Definitely picking up some pointers. Tokarski said he had no problem returning to the "real world" at Spokane after the intensity of the world championship held in Ottawa. "Hopefully," he said of the experience, "it helped my resume as a big-game goaltender." Tokarski is 19-9-2 for Spokane with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in 30 games.