It's been a long cycle for Marty

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

It's important to remember that the Maple Leafs will once again be without three pretty good players -- Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Eric Lindros -- as they take what should be another futile stab at snapping out of their slump tonight.

It's also important to remember that the Senators are missing a star of their own, too.

Right winger Martin Havlat does hope to take a step along the road to recovery from a severely dislocated shoulder this week, however.

Havlat will travel to Cleveland on Wednesday, six weeks and one day after (regular) season-ending operation, for an examination by his surgeon, Dr. Anthony Miniaci. While he has done only "passive stretching" with his wounded wing since crashing into the boards 24 games ago, Havlat would increase his workload if given clearance by the doc.

"Hopefully, I'll get the green light to start more aggressive exercises," Havlat, who has another checkup scheduled at the three-month anniversary of the surgery, said yesterday. "Right now, nobody knows (a return date). I think February will be an important month."

Havlat, who has nine goals and five assists in 16 games this season, has been allowed to ride a stationary bike the past 21/2 weeks.

"That's my hobby now," he said, glancing over at teammate Zdeno Chara, a noted cyclist. "I told Zee this summer I'll beat him on whatever mountain he picks. I told him whenever, wherever."

No joking matter down the hall in a Scotiabank Place dressing room that has belonged to Leafs since Friday is a roster report showing Toronto without three of its top nine scorers.

Missed most is defenceman Bryan McCabe, who leads the team with 49 points and is currently sidelined by a groin tear.

Senators coach Bryan Murray pointed to the McCabe injury while admitting he feels for counterpart Pat Quinn. The Leafs have lost five straight for the first time under the irritated Irishman, and there are whispers a change is necessary.

While Leafs GM John Ferguson gunned down the suggestion yesterday, Murray also thinks the notion absurd.

"The guy's a great coach," he said of Quinn. "This guy's career, he's been a winner every place he's coached.

"I believe he's well respected in the (Toronto) room. Sometimes, you just don't have the ammunition, short term. People have to understand, when you're shorthanded, you're shorthanded. There's not much you can do."

BINGO-BOUND BO: The Senators gave rookie W Patrick Eaves another vote of confidence yesterday when they assigned W Brandon Bochenski to their AHL affiliate in Binghamton. Bochenski, who admits it's been "a roller-coaster" season, has missed the past four games with a bruised right shoulder. He suffered the injury early in his first game back after missing four weeks with the same shoulder separated. "I need to play," said the obviously disappointed right winger, who will suit up for the Baby Sens on Friday in Albany. "I'll get 25 minutes down there (opposed to) eight here."

BACK TO HASEK: G Dominik Hasek will make his seventh straight start in the Ottawa net tonight, contrary to any thinking that, against the struggling Leafs, this might be a good opportunity to get Ray Emery back between the pipes. Emery, who has allowed 12 goals in his last two outings, was pulled after giving up four goals vs. Montreal Jan. 7 and he hasn't been in goal since. Why go back to Hasek against the Leafs, who managed just 23 mostly harmless shots at him Saturday? "Because he's a good goaltender," Murray deadpanned. "He's playing very well now, he looks sharp, I talked to him (yesterday) and he's ready to play. We'll give Ray a chance in the near future, but (Hasek) didn't get a lot of work (Saturday), so we're going back to him."


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