Nearly 13 months removed from his last full-length NHL appearance, and about 50 weeks removed from his last dose of competitive hockey action, Marty Turco has abruptly put his NHL Network duties in the cooler to fill the Boston Bruins’ backup vacancy.
The team’s website reported Monday evening that the veteran of 538 NHL games was signed to a one-year deal. This announcement promptly followed the declaration that Tuukka Rask, injured in the second period of Saturday’s bout with the New York Islanders, will rest and rehab for the next four to six weeks.
If that prognosis holds true, the Bruins should have little difficulty extracting what they need out of Turco’s stand-in stint. The suddenly un-retired netminder who played the bulk of his career in Dallas will have to clear waivers before joining the team, and will not be eligible for postseason action, as he is joining after the trade deadline.
The best-case scenario for Rask has the anointed goalie of the future returning as early as the final week of the regular season, and as late as the middle of the first round of the playoffs. Between now and then, the Bruins cannot afford to escalate the workload of Tim Thomas, who has already been showing symptoms of a slowdown in recent weeks.
Unripe second-year professional Michael Hutchinson was summoned from Providence to man the bench doors and be on standby in case of in emergency for Sunday’s visit to the New York Rangers. But Hutchinson is supposed to be the Bruins’ AHL backup behind Anton Khudobin, who has seen action in six regular-season games with the Minnesota Wild but is currently injured himself.
In turn, not unlike his recent deadline deal to obtain Brian Rolston in the wake of long-term ailments to Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, general manager Peter Chiarelli pulled a desperate, but necessary string to enlist Turco.
With an immensely more seasoned stopper at their disposal, the Bruins can ensure that Thomas gets the breathers he will doubtlessly need in the coming month. Boston is about to cram its final 18 games into a span of 34 days with only one set of back-to-back non-game days, which they will spend traveling over three time zones to California.
Thomas, the oldest and most physically taxed holdover from last season’s playoff run, should play no more than 10 to 12 of the remaining games if he is to be in decent shape for the “second season.” At the same time, the Bruins need a reliable substitute for each of those other six to eight contests.
With that, at least until April 7, Turco will be the 2007-08 Alex Auld to Rask’s Manny Fernandez.