Hasek: 'I feel like a goalie again'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Is The Dominator preparing for a heroic return to the Senators net tonight?

Don't rule it out. Anything is possible when it comes to unpredictable Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek, who told reporters yesterday he is "very close" to making a return.

Then there's Bryan Murray, that funny guy.

Asked who his starting goalie would be Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semi-final last night against the Sabres, Murray didn't miss a beat: "Dominik Hasek."

This sounds hard to believe with more than 50 media in the room, but there was dead silence. Then, the Senators coach said he was just kidding and it was Ray Emery who would start and everybody laughed.

The plot thickened for the Senators yesterday as the 41-year-old Hasek -- sidelined for three months with an adductor muscle injury -- took part in the morning skate at HSBC Arena, but didn't dress in Game 3.

"He could play if he had to, but he won't play (last night)," Murray said before the game. "It appears he is able to do everything. He stopped the puck a lot, so we'll see."

There's talk Hasek could be ready for Game 4 tonight or if there's a Game 5 on Saturday at Scotiabank Place, but there were also whispers he wouldn't be ready for this series.

Hasek has done more on the ice in the last two days than he has in three months.

He was flopping around, kicking the puck away and, most importantly, going down to stop the puck -- something he has hasn't been able to do. Mouths were hanging wide open as Hasek went through his routine, though, it should be noted he did favour his right side a few times.

"I definitely feel better again," said Hasek. "I feel like I can do everything. I can move around. I can go up and down and I can jump around. That's good for me.

"Bryan may have said (he could play if he had to), but I don't feel like I am ready to play. Hopefully, I am pretty close. It's a huge improvement. I feel like a goalie again."

Trying to calm the waters with the media in full lather and speculation Hasek would return last night, Senators GM John Muckler told the Sun: "Now, don't go starting a controversy. (Hasek) is not going to start (Game 3) and we have confidence in Ray Emery."

Hasek was trying not to be a distraction. Emery has had his struggles in this series after giving up seven goals in Game 1, but Hasek gave his backup a vote of confidence.

"I know, at this point, that Ray can do a better job than me. I know where I need to be to play and that's what I am working on right now," said Hasek.

"I have confidence in my team with (Emery). He didn't have the best game in the first one, but I believe he can do the job. I want to be there and I want to be back, but until I am, I strongly believe that he is good enough to beat the Buffalo Sabres."

Emery said it was good to see Hasek and maintained his presence wasn't a distraction.

"That's the most I have seen him practise since he got hurt," said Emery. "It's great to see him out there and feeling better. I just want to help this team win and I'm just trying to do the best I can until (Hasek) is ready to go."

Getting Hasek back would be a huge boost.

Muckler brought him here to help the Senators win a Stanley Cup and has been banking on Hasek returning to play in the post-season after being hurt at the Olympics.

Is it too little, too late? Who knows?

But it sure does make it intriguing with the Senators trailing in the series. Hasek is unpredictable and many believed there was a time he would just skate up to Murray and tell him he's ready to play.

"Good question," said Hasek when asked if he will play in this series? "I wish, but I cannot answer this right now because I don't want to make any predictions. I am glad to be back on the ice with my teammates and to work hard in the practice. That's a big part of it. I need to to practise some more."


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