NEW YORK -- Brace yourself, all ye believers and holders of hope and faith, for this stunning bulletin:
Four days from the start of the NHL playoffs, Dominik Hasek is nowhere near returning to the Senators lineup.
That is, not unless the 41-year-old "unorthodox" goaltender is about to drastically adopt a stand-up (and never go down) style, or unless the Rev. Billy Graham drops by with his miraculous touch, or, in the words of coach Bryan Murray, "unless (Hasek) is teasing us."
Uh-uh. The Dominator ain't playing with no one right now. And when/if he does again, nobody can say.
Yesterday, during a practice at Scotiabank Place that exceeded 45 minutes, a fully equipped Hasek tended one goal but barely resembled a shadow of his former self.
The future Hall of Famer, who used to despise being beaten in such workouts, probably had a save percentage of less than .400 against teammates trying to put the puck at him. He waved at some shots, didn't even bother with others, and on at least three occasions seemed to favour his sore side.
STAYS ON HIS FEET
Not once did he go down to the ice. Hasek, who suffered a strained adductor muscle at the Olympics and has now missed the Senators' last 25 games, was later asked if the problem had moved to his groin.
"It's different, I don't know to describe it," he said. "It's in this weird area. I can walk without any pain ... I can flex to a point. I just don't feel I can go down and up. I just don't feel I can do what I need to do to stop the puck.
"I remember one week ago I felt positive, I put equipment on and said I'll be back. I had a few hard practices and I didn't feel I could go down. You hope you can do more, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way.
"You always dream you will wake up the next day and feel better," he added. "But I have to feel much better than I (felt yesterday).
"It's extremely frustrating."
Murray spoke of being "disappointed" that Hasek wouldn't be getting any action before the playoffs -- he didn't even accompany the team to New York for tonight's regular season-finale against the Rangers, but is slated to "practise" in Ottawa again today -- and refused to hazard a guess as to when his No. 1 goalie would be ready to bounce back.
"We've speculated, suggested, hoped ...," said Murray, who couldn't confirm Hasek would be his guy for Friday's playoff opener even if the Czech suddenly did an about-face. "If (Hasek) tells me he's healthy, I'd have a decision to make. I'm not saying he would or he wouldn't (start) ... I'd have a decision to make."
Rather, count on the Senators at least beginning and likely finishing this post-season of high expectations with rookie Ray Emery between the pipes.
While Hasek is having trouble with his ups and downs, Emery has had a full share of both in his first year.
His latest dip is a personal four-game losing streak in which he has allowed 17 goals on 110 shots. Emery has missed two games during that stretch with a sore hip, but yesterday said the problem isn't a big one.
"It's slowly getting better," he said. "The only reason I took a couple of games off was that if I did happen to play in the playoffs, I didn't want to play through nagging injuries.
EMERY 'READY TO ROCK'
"I think we have the best chance in the league to win a championship this year," he added. "I'm ready to rock."
Murray expressed confidence in Emery's ability to get the job done.
"I don't believe (goaltending) will be a problem for us," said Murray. "I think (Emery) will be a good player for us."
Captain Daniel Alfredsson agreed.
"We've known for awhile that Ray is going to be the guy, until Dom comes back and can skate full out in practice," said Alfredsson. "We're confident with Ray."