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Hasek practices without pads, plans playoff return

OTTAWA -- Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek practiced without pads Friday and hopes to return for the playoffs after missing nearly two months with a groin injury.

Though there is no timetable for his return, an upbeat Hasek all but guaranteed he'd be ready to go for the postseason, although he
wouldn't make any predictions on his return before then.

The 41-year-old veteran Czech also plans to practice with full
pads Saturday morning during the team's pregame skate before
playing Buffalo. The groin injury also knocked him out of the Torino
Olympics.

"I'm focused on being ready to play," he said. "I cannot say
it's going to be in five days, seven days or 10 days. My goal is to
be ready as soon as possible."

In his absence, backup Ray Emery has made 20 straight starts and his strong play has erased any concerns over the team's goaltending. Emery was named the NHL's defensive player and rookie
of the month for March.

The Senators started Friday with a two-point lead over Carolina
at the top of the Eastern Conference.