Sens' Chara simply dealt one bad hand

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Zdeno Chara's body language said it all as he stood along the boards yesterday at Scotiabank Place.

While he was engaged in a long chat with Bryan Murray, Chara was motioning to show the coach how hard a time he's having gripping his stick and shooting the puck.

And while he has made some progress since injuring his hand in a fight with Pittsburgh's Eric Cairns on March 21, Chara isn't ready to return to the lineup any time soon.

He's listed as day-to-day, but he's out indefinitely.

Chara is frustrated because he believed he'd be playing by now.

"He's getting better," Murray said prior to the Canadiens' visit last night. "He doesn't feel he's at the point where he can shoot the puck enough to return to the lineup. It's fair to say he's disappointed because he thought he would be back by now."

The 6-foot-9 Chara looked fine as he handled the puck going through yesterday's optional skate, but when it came to warming up Ray Emery it was easy to tell there are still problems.

Chara is at the point he doesn't want to discuss the injury anymore. He is tired of the daily questions.

TIME NOT ON HIS SIDE

But time is ticking down on the regular season and Chara would like to get in some games before the playoffs.

And Murray remains confident that will happen.

"He has to get his strength back and I think he's getting closer to 100%," said Murray. "He'll get better and we believe that he'll be able to play in some games soon."

HASEK COMING ALONG: The Senators remain confident G Dominik Hasek, troubled by an adductor muscle injury he suffered in the Olympics seven weeks ago, will return in time for the playoffs. Asked if he was going to keep riding Emery -- who started his 20th straight game against the Habs -- Murray indicated Hasek might not be far away. "We'll have another goaltender (Hasek) fairly soon," said Murray. "That's the plan." With only two weeks until the playoffs begin, the question that remains is how much preparation time Hasek would need to get back into game shape? He has only skated with equipment on once since suffering the injury and would need time in practice before starting in a game again. "We're hoping that he has the chance to get into equipment fairly quickly," said Murray.

AROUND THE BOARDS: Montreal G Cristobal Huet, who watched a rare one from the bench last night, has visions of dollar signs dancing in his head. Acquired along with former Ottawa C Radek Bonk from the Kings in 2004 in the deal that sent G Mathieu Garon to Los Angeles, Huet, 30, is making only $456,000 US this season. With Huet scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July, he and the Habs have agreed they're not going to have any formal discussions until after the season. But it's fair to suggest Huet is in for a massive raise. He has carried the ball for the Habs since early February and has been a bigger force since G Jose Theodore was dealt to the Avalanche at the NHL trade deadline. Many league insiders believe Huet's Rochester-based agent Steve Bartlett will try to at least quadruple his client's salary. If Huet decides to test the free-agent market, there would be a host of teams taking a run at him. Don't be surprised if Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Tampa Bay and St. Louis make a pitch ... If the GM's job held by Kings' Dave Taylor becomes available -- and that's a definite possibility because they'll likely miss the playoffs -- a name to keep in mind is former Senators GM Rick Dudley. He has been working as a pro scout with the Blackhawks since he was fired in the purge by Florida owner Alan Cohen, who brought in the Mike Keenan/Jacques Martin combination in 2004. Dudley is considered a solid hockey man and was well respected as a GM with Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Florida.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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