BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This is not how Dominik Hasek planned his farewell, and he is having second thoughts about retiring after the season.
And his Buffalo Sabres teammates would love to have the star goaltender for another year.
"That would be great," Sabres forward and captain Rob Ray said Tuesday. "He's the best."
He is the NHL's top goalie five of the last six seasons and the only goalie with two MVP trophies.
The Sabres lost to the Dallas Stars on a disputed goal by Brett Hull in the Stanley Cup finals last season. He said in July he intended to quit after the 1999-00 season. But he has not played since injuring his groin Oct. 27.
In an interview in the Czech newspaper Sport, Hasek said that while he is not definite about postponing his retirement, he is thinking about it.
"I was looking forward to my last season," the 34-year-old goalie said. "I was planning how fine everything will go."
What followed was a 1-4-1 start and a groin injury this season.
"I would mind very much to quit after a poor season," said Hasek, who has a career 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Hasek was on his way back to Buffalo from Prague on Tuesday, and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Hasek had not mentioned his apparent change of heart.
"Darn right, it would be a good thing," Ruff said. "But I'm not getting excited about it until something is confirmed. It does look like he's having second thoughts, though."
Buffalo is in fourth place in the NHL's Northeast Division with a 13-15-5 record.
Hasek has wavered on the subject of his retirement before.
"The last game for the Buffalo Sabres this season will be my last one," he told The Associated Press in September.
But he added: "I don't know how I am going to feel. I won't play hockey for six or seven months, and then I'll see how I feel. It's hard to say."
Hasek spoke of a possible change of plans in Prague.
"Nothing is final. If everything goes well for me, I might continue," he said at the ceremony in which he was honored as one of the top Czech athletes of the year.
Ruff said nothing Hasek decided would surprise him.
"Final in this business is when it's finally over," Ruff said.
Hasek is not expected to be back in goal before January.
Rookie Martin Biron has played well in Hasek's place, posting a record of 11-6-1 and a 2.26 goals-against average.
"Now, when I don't play, I'm thinking much more," Hasek said. "My current priority is my comeback in full strength."
Hasek underwent surgery in Germany in August to repair a hernia and missed 12 games last season because of a strained groin.
"Maybe the injury has played into this scenario," Ruff said.
Hasek cautions that officially he hasn't changed his summer decision.
"The alternative that I would retire later is possible," he said. "I'm thinking about it."
Hasek has talked before of retirement.
"He mentioned it a long time ago," Ray said. "A lot of guys were surprised to see him come back this year."
Hasek has a tendency to agonize over decisions, but he usually sticks to them.
"That's why, if he does come back next year, it would be a big surprise," Ray said.
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