Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet to undergo surgery on left hamstring

The operation is to be performed on Sunday.

As he left the Bell Centre, Huet said he would have a better idea of how long he will be out of action after the surgery.

When asked if he expects to be back before the end of the season, he said: “I don’t know, we’ll see.”

Huet, the team’s top goaltender, was injured while stretching for a puck as Brian Rafalski scored during a 5-2 Montreal loss in New Jersey on Wednesday night.

The Canadiens called up Jaroslav Halak from AHL Hamilton on Friday to fill in as backup in goal to second goalie David Aebischer.

After a tepid performance by Aebischer in a 5-3 loss to Carolina on Saturday, coach Guy Carbonneau said the 21-year-old Halak will get his first NHL start Sunday night in Columbus.

Huet’s teammates said they will have to soldier on.

“Obviously, it hurts,” winger Mike Johnson said. “He was at the all-star game this year for a reason.

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“But we have two No. 1 goalies here. David played well for us early and he’ll have to the rest of the way, but he’s done it before, in the regular season and into the playoffs. It’s good that our organization has a lot of depth at that position.”

Huet, who had struggled of late, is 19-15-3 this season with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He was outstanding in November and into December, when he had much to do with the Canadiens’ strong first half of the season.

Now, Aebischer will likely see the lion’s share of time in goal.

“I cherish a challenge,” Aebischer said. “As an athlete, that’s what you want.

“I spoke (to Huet) a bit. He feels OK, but it’s tough for him to have surgery, especially down the stretch.”