Hasek's wait over

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The last time Dominik Hasek played an NHL game, Sidney Crosby was a rookie with the Rimouski Oceanic.

It was 653 days ago when the Dominator led the Red Wings to 3-2 victory in overtime vs. the L.A. Kings.

Then, poof, he was gone. Sidelined by a nasty groin injury for the remainder of the 2003-04 campaign.

Hasek and the Red Wings parted ways following the season, and on July 6, 2004, the Senators signed the free-agent goaltender.

And it's been 443 days since that splashy news conference at the Corel Centre to announce Hasek had inked a two-year deal.

Tonight -- long removed from that Dec. 8, 2003, victory and the NHL lockout -- Hasek, finally, will don a Senators uniform when they take on the Penguins in a pre-season game.

"Geez, it seems like an eternity since we announced Hasek's signing," Senators GM John Muckler said yesterday. "Remember the excitement that day? Well, I'm pretty excited about finally getting to see him. We've call been waiting a long time for this ... including Dominik. He wants to play.

"It's only his first game and it's only the pre-season so I'm not expecting him to be in mid-season form. He's not going to be a world beater right away, but I believe he's going to be strong for us. He's had some great days in practice and I think he's ready to play."

THIRTY MINUTES OF ACTION

Hasek will play 30 minutes tonight before giving way to Kelly Guard.

He'll also face the Maple Leafs at the Corel Centre on Sunday night for 30 minutes.

"I think it's about time to start playing some games. I've taken a lot of shots in practice and I'm ready to get going," said Hasek. "I feel pretty good. I'm ready to go in there and play. The game is going to be something different. I'm looking forward to competing again.

"You can work hard in practice, but it's not the same as playing in a game. I'm excited. I've had a good seven or eight practices to get ready."

Even the players are chomping at the bit about getting a chance to see Hasek in the net.

SMOLINSKI IMPRESSED

"You look at (Hasek) in practice and he's had some great days out there," said Senators centre Bryan Smolinski, who will watch tonight from the stands. I'm looking forward to seeing him in there and seeing what he can do.

"The one thing you notice in practice is how hard he works and how much he wants to stop the puck. He doesn't like to be beaten in practice."

Senators coach Bryan Murray said he just wants to make sure Hasek is ready for the regular-season opener Oct. 5 against the Leafs in Toronto.

"I get a chance to see him every day. He works hard in practice and we do a lot of shooting and I've got a pretty good handle on where he's at. From what I've seen, he's going to be able to do the job for us," said Murray.

A job he hasn't performed 77 days shy of two full years.


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