MONTREAL -- Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers is getting better every day and has begun eating after a recent stroke, his doctors said Friday.

The 71-year-old Demers, now a Canadian senator, still has some weakness on the right side and difficulty with speech, but is alert, said Dr. Angela Genge of the Montreal Neurological Institute.

"He smiles and says hello and puts out his hand and greets you," Genge said. "He's perfectly aware of who you are. Every day he is brighter and looking better, is interacting quite well, is very aware of his situation and, as of yesterday has begun to eat."

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Demers, who coached the Canadiens to their 1993 Stanley Cup victory, was rushed to hospital April 6.

Doctors hope to move him to a rehabilitation center early next week so he can begin intense therapy to regain his speech and movement. He has already begun some therapy.

"The sooner aggressive rehabilitation is started, the better people do," Genge said. "So we've started daily speech therapy, we're getting him to rehab."

Demers also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA. He was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by Stephen Harper, but quit the Conservative caucus several months ago to sit as an Independent in the Red Chamber.