SI Vault
Stephen Cannella
October 20, 2003
Uneasy DominatorDespite opening with two victories, Dominik Hasek's return to the Red Wings has been anything but smooth
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October 20, 2003

The Nhl

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Uneasy Dominator
Despite opening with two victories, Dominik Hasek's return to the Red Wings has been anything but smooth

Red wings goalie Dominik Hasek began the season with consecutive 3-2 victories over the Kings and the Senators, stopping 42 of a total 46 shots. It was the first meaningful action in 16 months for the 38-year-old Dominator, who's back in net after helping Detroit win the Stanley Cup in 2002 and then prematurely retiring. Hasek was solid, if unspectacular, in last week's matches, but the wins disguise the fact that he's not yet comfortable in the cage. "I have to remind myself shift after shift, Be sure of your position," he says. "I know I can play much better."

Hasek is a notorious slow starter—his career 2.86 goals-against average in October is by far his worst monthly mark—but he doesn't feel he has the luxury of easing into form this season, not with erstwhile starter Curtis Joseph stuck behind him in Detroit. Hasek and the Wings' brass had hoped that Joseph, 36, would be dealt before training camp, but his salary (a total of $16 million for this season and next) and the surgery he had in August to remove a bone chip in his right ankle made him untradeable.

The presence of both net-minders has Detroit players walking on eggshells. Hasek and Joseph have spoken to each other only once since Joseph rejoined the team in late September. (Backup goalie Manny Legace is called Jimmy Buffer by teammates because his dressing stall was intentionally placed between Hasek's and Joseph's.) When Joseph is ready to play later this month, coach Dave Lewis has to figure out a way to get him into the lineup so Detroit can showcase him. "It's a difficult situation, probably more for [ Joseph] than me," says Hasek. "But I cannot think too much about it."

"It's uncomfortable," Joseph said when he returned to practice on Sept. 30. "I'm looking forward to the next destination."

Says Hasek, "I feel more pressure than usual, especially in the beginning of the season. There is a lot of focus on me."

NHL Coaches' Poll
The Ducks Won't Be Mighty

Anaheim's stumbling start—they were outscored a combined 9-2 by the Stars, the Predators and the Coyotes in losing their first three games last week—wasn't a surprise to several coaches around the league. In a preseason poll SI asked the 30 NHL bench bosses who the league's most disappointing team would be this season. Of the 24 coaches who responded, six said the defending Western Conference champion Ducks. The Rangers, who lost their first two games by a combined 10-3 score, took second place with five votes.