Avery still haunts Stars

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The "A-Word."

It's a subject many Dallas Stars such as Loui Eriksson do not care to discuss, opting instead to put the entire topic behind them.

Eriksson had just emerged from the Stars dressing room after the team's practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday when he was informed that he had just been named the NHL's first star of the week.

A grin emerged over his face, one based more on surprise than expectation.

As he answered questions about the award, Eriksson was quite upbeat.

Until the "A-Word" came up.

As in Avery.

Sean Avery.

Talk about a mood killer.

"I don't really want to talk about that. I hope you understand," Eriksson said.

Very much so.

It was three weeks ago today in Calgary that the "A-Word" made his controversial remarks about fellow NHLers getting cozy with his "sloppy seconds," a reference allegedly aimed at his former squeeze, actress Elisha Cuthbert, and her present beau, Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf.

For the struggling Stars, who were having a difficult enough time winning hockey games without having this distraction hanging over them, the ensuing days would be a circus.

And it all stemmed from the "A-Word."

First came a six-game suspension from the league. Then came the decision from management that he would never play for the Stars again.

All the while, the remaining members of the team were peppered with queries regarding the entire mess.

At a time when rediscovering the victorious ways of yesteryear should have been their sole focus, the Stars continued to be pestered by mention of the "A-Word."

Now, heading into their game against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tonight, things seem to finally be reverting back to normal.

At least off the ice.

On it, well, there still are a number of kinks to be hammered out.

One thing at a time.

One Star who still uses the "A-Word" is veteran goalie Marty Turco.

Turco has been candid about the subject throughout the entire ordeal, not mincing words about his dislike for the sideshow that was going on inside the Stars dressing room until three weeks ago.

"First off, he was still around before that," Turco said. "His presence was always felt.

"Number two, we had things we needed to concentrate on. Instead we had that other stuff going on. It was talked about so much wherever we were or we went.

"So ya, it's been a little different without Sean."

For the better.

Turco didn't need to say it. The insinuation was quite clear.

These days, at a time when the "A-Word" is no longer commonly heard inside the Stars room, the storylines are much more hockey related. And that's a positive thing.

Like the one featuring Erikkson, who scored a league-leading six goals in three games to cop first star honours.

And like the one featuring Turco, who continues to search for solutions to his early season woes.

With 18 goal, Eriksson already has surpassed his single-season career-high of 14.

His recent performance was a significant reason why the Stars have gone a respectable 5-3-1 since the "A-Word" was erased from their roster.

"The puck is going in for me right now," Eriksson said. "But the most important thing for us is the team. It's been an up-and-down year for us.

"Every game has been a battle for points and we need all of them we can get."

Of all the Stars attempting to find their way, Turco leads the list.

The veteran goalie has been in a funk dating back to the start of the season, sporting an ordinary 12-12-3 record, 3.33 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

"It's been a never-ending battle," he admitted. "No matter what's going on in front of me, it's my job to stop the puck."

He's trying to do just that.

Just don't mention the "A-Word" if you don't have to.


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