Originally created 05/08/99

At long last, Hatcher returns from suspension



DALLAS -- This is just what the road-weary St. Louis Blues don't need -- a revved-up Derian Hatcher returning to the Dallas Stars after a seven-game suspension.

But that's exactly what they'll get Saturday night when Dallas tries to sweep its first two home games in the best-of-7 series.

Hatcher was suspended for seven games after breaking the jaw of Phoenix's Jeremy Roenick. He missed two in the regular season, and the Stars have gone 5-0 in the playoffs without their big defenseman.

Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said Hatcher has been waiting for the moment he can get back on ice.

"We're going to have to tone him down a little bit," Hitchcock said of the team's captain. "He is a real excited guy right now."

Brett Hull, who finally scored a playoff goal for Dallas in Thursday night's 3-0 win over the Blues, said Hatcher has been missed despite the team's winning ways.

"He's our leader and our captain, and he gives us a big, physical presence," Hull said. "To have him back fills a big hole. He'll add some toughness to our lineup."

Hatcher said he's been counting the hours.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "It's been hard watching these guys play without me."

As Hatcher is returning, Stars forward Pat Verbeek is sitting out a game. He and Jamal Mayers of the Blues were suspended Friday for one game apiece after slashing incidents on Thursday night.

Verbeek, who was just returning from an injury, slashed St. Louis center Pierre Turgeon on the knee with 2:18 left in the 3-0 Stars victory in Dallas.

Two minutes later, Mayers took a baseball-type swing to the arm of Dallas defenseman Darryl Sydor.

Both players will miss Game 2, on Saturday in Dallas. They will be eligible to return for Game 3, on Monday in St. Louis.

Hull found his scoring touch again Thursday night.

Hull was signed as a free agent -- after 10 years with St. Louis -- to provide a playoff scoring punch.

"He had a lot of emotion going into the game against his old team," Dallas goalie Ed Belfour said. "We were all happy to see him get that goal."

Hull's role with Dallas has changed since he came from St. Louis, where he was allowed to play a more freewheeling game. With the Stars, he is expected to also check and play defense.

"I've always heard that I was just a one-dimensional player who's just out there to score," he said. "But I fit into this system nice. It's been nice to throw that label back into people's faces."

Hull clearly was revived after he scored.

"When Brett scored that goal you could see it lifted a burden off his shoulders," Hitchcock said. "He had been down about the chances he missed. You could see that goal gave him life and made him a different kind of player."

Hull said he needed to score.

"You're a goal scorer, and you haven't scored, and you can say it doesn't matter, but it does," Hull said.

Blues coach Joel Quenneville was mad at Verbeek, who slashed Pierre Turgeon late in the game causing a knee injury that is not expected to keep the St. Louis center off the ice.

"That Verbeek slash was pretty vicious," Quenneville said. "Verbeek looked like he knew what he was doing."

Turgeon said, "I lost feeling in my leg, and we'll see how it feels later."

St. Louis goalie Grant Fuhr said the Blues might be able to rally around the hit.

"Maybe we lacked emotion," Fuhr said. "It was clearly our worst game of the playoffs. That was a cheap shot on Pierre. I hope the league deals with it."