Savard is cleared to play for Bruins
The Bruins had a day of rest yesterday after eliminating Buffalo Monday night in Game 6 of their first-round series at TD Garden. They will get back to work today at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington in anticipation of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, which is expected to kick off later this week.
General manager Peter Chiarelli announced during a conference call yesterday that Marc Savard has been cleared to play. Savard met with a neurologist, Jeremy Schmahmann, Monday afternoon and in concert with the team’s medical staff, the determination was made that he was ready to return in his role as the team’s top playmaker.
Savard practiced with the team Sunday, making his first on-ice appearance with the club since suffering a Grade 2 concussion March 7 after a violent hit by Matt Cooke of the Penguins.
“I’ll leave it up to [coach Claude Julien] as far as putting the lines together and who plays and who doesn’t play,’’ said Chiarelli, “but Marc is ready to go, and we’ll see how his conditioning goes, but I know from talking to him, he’s very anxious to play.’’
There was speculation that Savard would be available for Game 6 against the Sabres because he participated in the optional morning skate, but he was ruled out. Chiarelli said the center’s return will provide a significant boost.
“He’s an elite player and he’s been chomping at the bit to play,’’ said the GM. “The fact that we were able to clinch and give some time for him to get acclimated and [participate] in full practices, I think, is going to be very beneficial to Savvy and the team.
“Obviously, he’s a terrific offensive player and you’ve seen his performances in playoffs. He really works on the two-way side of his game in the playoffs. It’s like a trade-deadline acquisition. We’re adding, obviously, a very good player to our mix for the next series.’’
One player who won’t be back soon is defenseman Mark Stuart, who has an infected left pinkie.
“I don’t anticipate seeing him in this next round,’’ said Chiarelli.
Although forward Marco Sturm has been playing, he has had little to show for his efforts. He has one goal in the last 22 games, which came against Washington in the regular-season finale. He had many chances against Buffalo, including a shorthanded bid in the first period of Game 6 that rattled off the crossbar.
“Recently I’ve seen a guy who is coming around,’’ said Chiarelli. “I see him skating, I see him battling more down low offensively on the forecheck.
“He is snakebitten, you can’t question that. He’s certainly getting his chances. He’s squeezing his stick, it’s as simple as that. I expect his game to come around.’’
The Bruins won all three home games against the Sabres, which was no mean feat, given how the team struggled at the Garden all year. The Bruins were 18-17-6 at home, worst among the eight Eastern playoff teams.
“I’ve been trying to figure out all year why we played so poorly at home,’’ said Chiarelli. “We were two different teams.
“I have to think it’s just mental. It’s just better concentration, better focus. I’ve liked the way we’ve played in our three home games in the playoffs. Maybe we had lapses here and there, but the overall effort each 60 minutes was very good.’’
A key reason the Bruins were able to advance was the play of special teams. Boston was 6 for 22 on the power play (27.3 percent) and didn’t allow a man-advantage goal to Buffalo in 19 opportunities.
“On the power play, I thought we made some good adjustments,’’ said Chiarelli. “I thought we changed entries, which was good. You saw different types of entries, you saw the soft, high dump. You saw the quick pass to the strong-side winger and he would gain entry.
“I think it caught them off-guard a little bit and I think you saw a little bit more rotation from the guys on the half wall, which moved their box around.
“You’ve got to give credit, obviously, to the players on the specialty teams, but also to the coaching staff, they made some good adjustments there. We’ve struggled all year on the power play and I really like the way we responded and I think that threw them for a loop a little bit.’’
No matter which team the Bruins face — and that will be determined tonight after Washington and Montreal square off in Game 7 — Chiarelli sees challenges against both.
“Philly has some mojo going, too, so I suspect if we play them, it will be a crash-and-bang series,’’ he said. “They’ve got some big, physical forwards, they like to play in your face. They’ve got [Chris] Pronger on the back end who plays a physical game and who can also move the puck.’’
If it’s the defending NHL champions from Pittsburgh, it means a different type of threat.
“My guess is because they have the two elite forwards [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin], I think you’re going to see maybe more of a technical or tactical matchup type of series,’’ said Chiarelli. “It will be still be physical because they’ve got some big bodies up front including [Alexei] Ponikarovsky and [Michael] Rupp, guys like that. I would guess you’d see a little more tactical series against Pittsburgh.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.