Hasek might Czech out Turin

The Senators won't stand in Dominik Hasek's way if he wants to chase Olympic gold this winter.

While the rosters for Turin won't be finalized until Dec. 22, Czech hockey officials would have to be crazy to leave the 40-year-old Senators goalie off the list and not give him the chance to be the starter.

And while the Senators would probably rather see Hasek have two weeks off to rest up for the playoff stretch drive, they'll let him jet off to Italy in February if that's what he wants.

"If (Hasek) earns that right, then we're not going to stop him. He should be there," said Senators coach Bryan Murray yesterday. "I really think if you look at Dominik Hasek, he has really stepped up with his performance.

"The way I treat him is a like a 30-year-old goaltender who has a lot of experience. He's in excellent shape, he's moving around really well and he's contributing in a big way to our success."

Though Hasek led the Czech squad to Olympic gold in 1998, he wasn't considered to be a factor for a spot on the Turin team after only playing 14 NHL games in three seasons.

But his stellar performance so far this season has changed all that thinking. Going into last night's game against the Bruins, Hasek led the league with a 1.92 goals-against average and .935 save-percentage.

The No. 1 goaltending job for the Czechs had previously been conceded to Nashville's Tomas Vokoun.

But Hasek, an early frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy this season, may have changed that line of thinking.

"I can't say what should happen for the Czech team because I don't make those decisions, but the way he's played, if he's healthy, I would think he should be the No. 1 goalie going in (to the Olympics)," said Murray.

Hasek's agent, Ritch Winter, suggested the Czechs might let Vokoun and Hasek battle it out in the preliminary round to determine the starter.

"Let both guys play and then make a decision," said Winter.

"I know one thing: No other goalie than Dominik Hasek has ever won Olympic gold for the Czech Republic."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com