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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
With his status in jeopardy, Hasek to have MRI

By Scott Burnside
ESPN.com

TORINO, Italy -- Exactly 9 minutes, 25 seconds into the Czech Republic's first Olympic hockey game, legendary netminder Dominik Hasek made a series of pad saves, felt a sharp pain between his legs and left the game, making real the worst nightmare for every NHL general manager and owner with a player at these Olympics.

Hasek did not return and his availability for the balance of the Olympic tournament remains doubtful. His injury also suddenly throws into question the Stanley Cup aspirations of the Ottawa Senators.

Dominik Hasek
Czech Republic goalie Dominik Hasek watched from the sidelines after leaving the game in the first period.

"I don't feel very great. If I feel good I would be on the ice the whole game," Hasek told reporters after being treated by doctors, while his Czech teammates held off a determined German squad by a 4-1 count.

"I made a save in like the eighth or ninth minute of the game and I felt a very sharp pain between my legs. And I yelled at my teammates to make the icing, but they didn't know what's going on, unfortunately. I stayed on the ice, the shift was very, very long, and I felt like I could not continue to play."

Although the assumption was that it was a groin injury, Hasek insisted it was something else, although he could not describe what else it might be.

"It's not a groin," Hasek said. "It's somewhere between my legs. The doctors could probably give you [an] exact diagnostic [of] whatever it is. But it's not a groin, that's all I can say. It's a muscle injury and the doctors will tell you more."

Later, Czech reporters who spoke to team doctors indicated it was a muscle on the back of Hasek's leg, perhaps a hamstring, and that Hasek was going to have an MRI. Coach Alois Hadamczik indicated Hasek would get further medical treatment overnight.

"And we'll see what happens," he said.

Did Hasek, 41, imagine that the injury would keep him out for the balance of the tournament?

"I don't want to say that. My goal is to get back on the ice and play. We'll see how I'm going to feel tomorrow," the six-time Vezina Trophy winner said. "On the other hand, I have to say if I don't feel I can help my team, I don't want to push coaches or somebody to play me. I have to feel well, I have to practice hard and get into the game, that's my goal. On the other hand, if I cannot do it, I cannot play."

Hasek, who returned to the NHL after playing just 14 games between the 2001-02 season and the start of this season, has been one of the most remarkable stories of the current NHL campaign.

He is 28-10-4 for the Senators, who are currently second in the Eastern Conference standings, and he has been almost injury-free. His 2.09 goals-against average is tied for second in the league, while his .925 save percentage is second among goalies with at least 20 starts.

"You never want your first goalie to go down," said Christoph Schubert, a teammate of Hasek in Ottawa who faced Hasek and the Czechs as part of the German national team Wednesday.

"I hope it's not that bad, but of course you're kind of concerned, want to know what's going to happen," the rookie defenseman said. "I know [all of] Ottawa is going talk about it tomorrow; is he going to be down, is he going to be ready to play again, was it the right decision [to come to the Olympics]? But it's his own decision, he wants to come over here. I guess as a coach, as a GM, you can't expect to come back [from the Olympics] 100 percent. Something happens."

Predictably, the Czech players were sympathetic to Hasek's situation while rallying behind backup Tomas Vokoun, who's also considered one of the top goaltenders in the NHL and the man who led the Czechs to a world championship last spring.

"It's not easy for [Hasek]. He was practicing and he did everything to be back and get a chance to play for the national team, and the first 10 minutes happens something like that, it's not easy for him," said Czech scoring star Jaromir Jagr.

Vokoun, who allowed the lone German goal and actually set up the Czechs' winning goal with a smart, long pass during a bad German line change, saw Hasek go down and felt the injury was serious enough that he would be going in.

"He was signaling to the bench that he was hurt and we should take a whistle," Vokoun said. "I saw it, right after the save; he made a sound and kind of fell down awkward. I was pretty sure I'm going to go in.

"You prepare to be ready in case something like this happens. Obviously, it's not the way you want to go in, but you have to be ready."

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.