BRYAN MURRAY was clearly irritated.
"You guys write what you want," the Senators coach huffed when asked for an update on his team's lengthy injury list after yesterday's practice. "I tell you and nobody believes me anyway.
"If (Zdeno) Chara had a broken hand, I'd tell you he had a broken hand," Murray added off-podium later. "I'm trying to be honest and careful. He has a bone bruise."
A well concealed bone bruise, at that.
A few moments later, Chara, who had hoped to be ready for tonight's game at The Bank against New Jersey, had his big right mitt jammed in a jacket pocket while speaking to the media. The Norris Trophy candidate did skate before practice -- gripping a light stick delicately -- but received treatment while his teammates prepared for the Devils.
'NOT GOOD ENOUGH'
"We don't know when I'm going to be ready to play," said Chara, who suffered the damage while slugging the Penguins' Eric Cairns last Tuesday. "As soon as it feels good enough, I'll let you guys know. Right now, it's still not good enough.
"You have to be able to do things normally ... like pass, shoot and battle. There's been improvement, especially the last two or three days it feels better. Hopefully, we're past the worst and it will just keep getting better."
Overall, the news from the infirmary is getting better for the Senators, who have won 12-of-15 but are coming off a 6-3 pounding by the Philadelphia Flyers:
- Goalie Dominik Hasek, who has been sidelined 1 1/2 months with a strained adductor muscle, is at least talking about returning to practice in pads sometime this week.
"I plan to put the equipment on ... not practise with the team, but put the whole gear on," he said. "Maybe I'll practice. Who knows."
- Winger Martin Havlat, out since Nov. 29 with a dislocated shoulder, will visit his surgeon either today or tomorrow with hopes of getting clearance to participate in contact drills. Growing a little antsy, he has jumped the gun a little by testing the wing with soft, on-ice battles the past couple of days.
"I've been trying it a little ... it's not that bad," said Havlat. "Hopefully, I'll get the green light for contact in the next couple of days, then go from there."
HAVLAT CLOSE TO RETURN
Best-case scenario would see Havlat return Saturday against the visiting Capitals, although it's possible he could wait for Monday's game here vs. the Thrashers. Either game would present him the opportunity to come back with a bang -- he has 17 points in 14 career games against Washington, and 13 points in 14 games against Atlanta.
- Centre Mike Fisher (sprained ankle) is walking without a limp and has skated the past two days. "It's starting to feel not too bad," said Fisher, who has missed the past five games and also has an eye toward returning against either Washington or Atlanta. "I haven't gone full bore yet, but since Friday it's come a long way and that's encouraging."
- Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (ribs, neck, slight concussion) practised yesterday, but won't play tonight. AHL call-up Filip Novak will step in.
"Overall, I'm real happy with how we've done," Murray said, referring to a stretch that has bumped the team's man-games lost to injury number to 134. (The Flyers lead the NHL with 344). "I think we've survived.
"Hopefully, there will be nothing further and it balances out," added Murray, who will be faced with some tough ice time decisions when everyone returns. "We're going to have to have a lottery to see who comes out."