The Dominator 'as good as ever'

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Considering Dominik Hasek already has a year of retirement under his belt, one might think the 40-year-old netminder would be rather happy with what he has done as an Ottawa Senator.

But that's not necessarily the case.

"Something in between," Hasek said after practice yesterday when he was asked whether the scintillating statistics he has posted have surprised him or they're what he expected. "I was not sure before the season started how it would go. My numbers are pretty good, but I can not be pleased with it.

"We were doing well in the beginning of the season, and we are still on top (in the Northeast Division), but we are not the best team in the NHL. I want to see my team to be the best in the NHL. There is always something to improve."

TOPS IN SAVE PERCENTAGE

Hasek led the league in save percentage before last night with a .929 mark and was tied for first with a 2.06 goals-against average. The 23 wins and three shutouts beside his name don't look bad either. It's easy to forget Hasek had played just 14 games -- all for the Detroit Red Wings -- since helping the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002. He had retired for 2002-03 and a comeback in the Motor City was cut short by a groin injury the following season.

But where Hasek, who makes $1.52 million US this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has made another impact can't be measured in statistics. His simple presence fills his teammates with confidence. No one here mentions the name of Patrick Lalime anymore.

"You couldn't ask for more," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "He has been unbelievable for us. I think he has been as good as you have ever seen him. He brings a great (sense of) calm to us. We know we can make mistakes and he is going to be there to make the saves."

Hasek will start against the Maple Leafs tonight, and he will look to continue his dominance against Toronto. Including four wins against the Leafs in 2005-06, Hasek has a career record of 19-5-5 versus the Leafs.

Despite the Senators' general manhandling of the Leafs since the lockout ended, they don't think they have a psychological advantage over their provincial rivals.

"This is two big games for them," Alfredsson said. "It will be a case where you have them being really desperate because they are really close to being out of the playoffs. For us, it is (a chance) to get back on the winning track."

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THE DEAL WITH ... DOMINIK HASEK

A look at the ageless Senators goalie Dominik Hasek:

- Age: Turns 41 on Jan. 29.

- Olympic moments: Will represent Czechs at Turin ... Won gold in 1998 ... Made Olympic debut at the 1988 Calgary Games.

- Stats: Has 66 career shutouts, tying Patrick Roy for 13th on the NHL list ... Two-time Hart Trophy winner ... Won Vezina Trophy six times in nine years in Buffalo.

- Quotable: "He's soon going to be 41 years old and his flexibility is unbelievable. He's like Gumby." -- Senators GM John Muckler.


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