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Stars Suspend AWOL Eddie

By leading the Dallas Stars to the last two Stanley Cup finals, Ed Belfour went a long way toward erasing his reputation as "Crazy Eddie," the goaltender who could be wacky or wonderful.

Now, a second case of bizarre off-ice behavior in less than a year has left him suspended indefinitely and is threatening to revive that nickname.

Belfour left the team in Boston on Saturday, flying back to Dallas after arguing with coach Ken Hitchcock over participation in an optional pregame practice. On Sunday, the Stars suspendEd Belfour indefinitely.

"I've spoken to Ed, and at this time he feels he is not ready to join the team," general manager Bob Gainey said in a statement. "We have placed him on suspension as we work toward a resolution."

On his way out of town, Belfour - a free agent after this season - called Stars captain Derian Hatcher to give his side of the story. Hatcher filled in his teammates, but refused to publicly discuss the details.

"I don't want to speak for Eddie, and I don't want to speak for Bob," Hatcher said.

On Saturday, Gainey said: "I think the way I view the situation is there was a conflict, which itself was a problem, and the way Ed chose to respond to the problem created another problem. That is the bigger problem. We'll start there and work our way back. He made a choice, and I'd like to give him the opportunity to explain."

Coming off a 4-2 loss in Detroit, Hitchcock decided to give Belfour a break and let Marty Turco start Saturday night against the Bruins. Tradition dictated that, as the backup for the day, Belfour be in goal for the morning skate so Turco could save himself for the game.

He refused, triggering the blowup between a coach known as demanding and often vocal with his players and a quirky star with whom there was never any indication of friction. In fact, twice in the last month, Hitchcock went with Belfour in games after he'd discussed using Turco.

Turco wound up making 33 stops for his first career shutout in a 4-0 victory in Boston. He's likely to be in goal for the last two games of this road trip, Monday night against the New York Rangers and Wednesday night in Atlanta. The Stars also recalled journeyman Rick Tabaracci under emergency conditions from Utah of the International Hockey League.

The 35-year-old Belfour came to Dallas four seasons ago with a history of srong regular seasons and mediocre postseasons. He was considered flaky and unreliable under pressure. The Stars made it to the conference finals his first season, but didn't advance.

Belfour was rock solid in the 1999 playoffs, winning two triple-overtime games and outdueling goalies Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek while Dallas win its first Stanley Cup title. Belfour also ended his dubious streak of playing the most postseason games without a championship of any goalie in league history.

He was even better last season. Although the Stars lost in the finals to the New Jersey Devils, Belfour was widely credited as the reason Dallas even came that close.

Despite this success, Belfour still wasn't getting leaguewide recognition and was left off the All-Star team. And in March, he was arrested for fighting with security guards and police at a Dallas hotel.

According to police reports, Belfour spit and kicked at officers, who used pepper spray to subdue him. While being taken to jail, the goaltender offered $100,000 for officers to let him go, then upped it to $1 billion.

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and was placed on two years' probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to visit two area high schools to warn about alcohol abuse. He also was enrolled in the NHL's substance-abuse program.

He got off to a brilliant start this season, posting six shutouts in the first two months and going 219 minutes without allowing a goal.

He's 6-6-1 since that streak ended Nov. 29. He's been solid in those victories, allowing just eight goals with another shutout, but shaky in the losses, yielding 26 goals. His 2.13 goals-against average and .908 save percentage rank sixth in the league.

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