Mach 9 is about to get clearance for takeoff.
Senators winger Martin Havlat is expecting to receive good news today in his recovery from shoulder surgery that has sidelined for the past 49 games.
Havlat will fly to Toronto for a meeting with shoulder specialist Anthony Miniaci.
Miniaci, who is on holidays with his family in London, Ont., wants to make sure Havlat has enough strength in his shoulder to begin taking contact in practice.
"I won't be able to play right away, but I'm expecting to get the clearance," Havlat said yesterday. "Then, I'll be able to give it a good test in practice and I'll be back for the playoffs."
Since no date has been set for his return, it's safe to guess Havlat is going to need 10 days.
That means a realistic target date could be April 6 against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Place or two nights later vs. the Sabres.
"I need to feel comfortable with it before I get back to playing," said Havlat. "I feel good right now, but I know I've had surgery. The big thing for me is making sure the strength is where it needs to be.
"It's really important for me to make sure that I play some games before the playoffs. You want the chance to get your timing back and you need to be able to get back into game shape. It's going to feel good to get back in there and get playing."
The reason Havlat is so close to returning is because of the hard work he's put in since he had surgery on Dec. 13. Some days he spent 6-8 hours in the gym trying to make sure he had the chance to come back.
Havlat has been giving the shoulder a physical test in practice the odd time in the last couple of days. He fell on it accidentally and suffered no ill-effects and he got tangled up in a drill with Mike Fisher and came away unscathed.
"My goal the day I had the surgery was to be ready for the playoffs ... and I'm close," said Havlat. "Hopefully, the doctor will feel everything is fine and I'm going to be ready soon. That's what I want."
CLEANING HOUSE: Talk in front offices around the NHL is that the Bruins' decision to fire GM Mike O'Connell is just the tip of the iceberg. The chatter coming out of Boston is Bruins president Harry Sinden will be given the opportunity to walk gracefully out the door and into retirement at the end of the season, while coach Mike Sullivan will be fired. And Boston isn't the only hot spot. Though the GMs gathered in Toronto for a meetings about the CBA the last two days, some might not survive to negotiate contracts in the off-season. The belief is the Penguins have informed GM Craig Patrick he's done at the end of the year, while new ownership in St. Louis will likely cut ties with GM Larry Pleau. Most NHL insiders' eyes are on Kings GM Dave Taylor, however. He fired coach Andy Murray last week, but many believe it might be too little, too late. That's why John Torchetti was only given the coaching job on an interim basis. The Kings have given Taylor plenty of rope, but he made major mistakes with the new CBA and the players he brought to L.A. -- especially C Jeremy Roenick. Naturally, the knives are out in the Toronto media for GM John Ferguson Jr. because the Leafs are going to miss the playoffs. The word among NHL executives is Ferguson painted that scenario for the Leafs' ownership group before the season started and only coach Pat Quinn will pay the price. If Ferguson Jr. gets the chance, he'll likely put his AHL coach, Paul Maurice, behind the bench. That's why Maurice has a clause in his contract that wouldn't allow him to accept another NHL coaching job this year.