- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- It's very possible that Tuesday night could be the end of Marty Turco's NHL career.
With only two regular-season games remaining for Boston, starting goalie Tim Thomas will make one start and Anton Khudobin, who was called up from Providence of the AHL on Monday, will likely get the nod in the other game as Tuukka Rask (groin/abdomen) continues to progress with his rehab in hopes of being ready for the playoffs.
After Rask suffered that injury on March 3, when Khudobin also was injured, the Bruins signed Turco as a free agent to serve as a stopgap. He posted a 2-2-0 record in five starts.
"It's been tremendous, really," Turco said of his brief time in Boston. "I've been around for a bit and can't say that disappointments have been much a part of my time here. I've been fortunate to have an opportunity and I'm truly grateful, for my family and I, for what the Boston Bruins gave me when things seemed pretty bleak."
After playing nine seasons for the Dallas Stars, Turco spent the 2010-11 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 36-year-old masked man entered this season without an NHL contract and played in Austria before signing with Boston. It had been almost a full calendar year between NHL starts for him.
Prior to his first game with the Bruins on March 13 at Tampa, his pervious NHL game was on March 17, 2011, at Dallas while he was playing for Chicago. Shortly after he stepped into the crease for the Bruins, it was obvious he had lost a step, and he suffered a 6-1 loss to the Lightning.
"After the Tampa game, I'm sure everyone scratched their head and second guessed, it's just human nature," Turco said. "I don't feel like I did, but I was just trying to control what I can. But you want to have some sense of validation, sure, to this group and the players and coaches. I mean that's the thing that really eats at me when I lay down at night, is what can I do for my teammates?
"You work like a dog to not only give these guys ample good goaltending in practice, right to the end for guys that weren't playing or wanted to stay out [on the ice] late. I cherished that role for many reasons and it's been an interesting year, to say the least. It would have been nice to win this one tonight, but being a Boston Bruin and a part of this group, I'll be going out on a high no matter what."
Turco knew his time here would be brief, as he's not eligible to play in the postseason because he signed after the trade deadline. He gave the Bruins exactly what they needed and his teammates are grateful for his professionalism and service.
"Obviously, it was unfortunate to see Tuukka go down, but it gives a chance for Marty to step in and give Timmy some much-needed rest," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "He's obviously a veteran guy that has been around for a long time and a good team guy that has seen a lot as well. We've been happy with what he's brought to this hockey team and this organization. He definitely played well for us."
Turco's goal was to challenge his teammates during practice and show them he was ready to help out in any way possible.
"You want to play great and you want to show them," he said. "I've felt pretty proud of my time here so far. Between Tampa and a little bit tonight, those two games, part of them anyway, are pretty disappointing. But at the end of the day, I'll continue to hold my head high like I have all year to be ready in this position and still want to play some. So we'll see what happens."
Of the five games Turco played for the Bruins, the previous four were on the road, so he was thrilled to finally play a home game, despite the outcome.
When Turco played for the University of Michigan, he helped the Wolverines win the 1998 Frozen Four, which was played in this building, then called the FleetCenter. He also posted his first NHL shutout here for the Stars during the 2000-01 season.
"This building's always been pretty special to me," he said. "So it was fun coming in here. Never started in that end, so I had to rethink that a little bit, but it was special. This is really a unique franchise, not just what they did last year, but being an Original Six team and the tradition that they have. Not many teams have this.
"Their fan base has been unreal over the years and particularly strong this year, so just to feel that energy inside the arena and get a chance to play, period, never mind at home. Like I said, I do owe a big debt of gratitude. Even losing 5-3, I think tomorrow I'll wake up and realize that the majority of it was pretty fun."
While Turco realized this could be it for his playing career, he also knew he was witnessing the start of a rookie's career.
Bruins coach Claude Julien decided that 20-year-old defenseman Torey Krug would make his NHL debut Tuesday night.
Krug first stepped on the ice as a professional one week ago after the Bruins signed him as a free agent on March 25 following his junior season at Michigan State. Krug had been practicing with the Bruins, until he was given an opportunity Tuesday night.
Turco and Krug had breakfast together and the veteran was reminiscing with the rookie about his first NHL game.
"It was a cool night," Turco said. "I mean, look at the lineup he got a chance to play against. I know he and his family were excited for this time to come, so it was cool. He played great and showed a lot of poise, which is hard to do at this level. There may have been only one or two cases where he [realized] the game is pretty quick, especially against the Penguins. All in all, he played steady for his first one."
They've been teammates for only one week, but Krug made an impression on Turco.
"I was super excited for him," Turco said. "He's a special young man and he's got a good personality. Even though he went to Michigan State, I took a liking to him instantly."
Once the regular season ends on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, Turco will head home to be with his family. Until Rask is ready to return, Khudobin will serve as Thomas' backup. Turco would like to stick around, but he knows he filled his role perfectly.
"Even If I could stay, it's not my call one bit," Turco said. "It would be in the best interest of the signed guys, even young guys, to be here and practicing. As willing as I am to do so, it's not going to happen.
"But I really enjoyed my time here and I'll continue to enjoy it for the couple of remaining games. But I haven't been home in a long time, so I'm going to get home and see the kids too."
7hDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com