I think I have solved the problem. The issue was with LOAD_LP_MODULE defined in /etc/default/cups. It is set to "yes" which triggers the /etc/init.d/cups startup script to attempt to load a parallel printer module. I believe that when the attempt to load a module of a nonexistent device started the entire plug locked up, no ping, no login, game over.
Once I modifed 'LOAD_LP_MODULE=yes' to 'LOAD_LP_MODULE=no' in /etc/default/cups, I was able to execute "dpkg --configure -a" and complete the installation process. After that I was able to configure the print server and have successfully printed from all my home computers (Mac, Winbloze, Linux).
Mama is happy again !