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Savard not there, but getting closer

Practice encouraging for Bruins center

Battling back from postconcussion syndrome, Marc Savard worked up a sweat yesterday, but the Bruins will not rush him back into game action. Battling back from postconcussion syndrome, Marc Savard worked up a sweat yesterday, but the Bruins will not rush him back into game action. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / November 28, 2010

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WILMINGTON — Marc Savard knows that setting a timetable for a return from the effects of postconcussion syndrome would be a futile exercise. When the Bruins’ 33-year-old center gained medical clearance last week to begin full-contact workouts, there was talk that he might be back with the team by early December.

But Savard knows his return will depend on his response in practice. And though the Bruins were still smarting from a 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes Friday, the good news yesterday was that Savard was on the ice, looking no worse for the wear as he centered a fourth line between Daniel Paille and Michael Ryder.

“It felt really good to be out there with the guys,’’ Savard said. “I was really surprised, actually. The only thing was when Claude [Julien] mentioned one drill, it took me a couple watches before I got it right. But besides that, I felt great and had a lot of fun.’’

Savard even engaged Adam McQuaid in an extra session of one-on-one drills that left him in a full sweat once he skated off the ice to the dressing room.

“Feel like I’m getting closer,’’ said Savard. “We talked, obviously, about some time in December. Whether that’s early December, middle, or whatever, I’m not sure.

“Every day I’m getting closer, doing more drills, getting work on the battles, and just having fun and I’m enjoying it every day.’’

With the Bruins facing a manpower shortage today in Atlanta — David Krejci and Jordan Caron are home sick with flu-like symptoms — Savard knows this would be a good time to expedite his return.

“I know I’m not playing tomorrow but, hopefully, soon,’’ he said. “I’m getting anxious and just like you say, Krejci’s sick, so I’m like, ‘Oh, man,’ but I’ve got to be patient.

“I’ve got to make sure I can jump in and contribute. I don’t want to jump in and take a while to get my feet wet. I want to be able to jump in and play and contribute, so I have to wait and be ready.’’

On that point, Julien concurred. There is no reason to rush Savard back.

“You certainly don’t want to bring a guy in who’s going to struggle keeping up, because it’s not a positive for the team and it’s not a positive for him,’’ Julien said.

“So that’s what happens when guys are out for a long time. The minute they get cleared, people want him to be back right away, and so do they. But you got to make the right decision.’’

Savard’s attempt to get back on the ice has been a painstaking process.

During Wednesday’s morning skate with the team in Florida, Savard jousted with McQuaid during a one-on-one ses sion and wound up catching an elbow to the chin. The tale of the tape indicates it had the potential to be a haymaker, with McQuaid, 24, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 197 pounds, dwarfing the 5-10, 191-pound Savard.

“I didn’t mean to, but I guess it was a good test for him,’’ said McQuaid, who has been a healthy scratch each of the last five games after appearing in 10 consecutive games.

Savard was quick to reassure McQuaid that no damage had been done, saying, “I feel good! I feel good!’’

“I was glad he said he felt good,’’ McQuaid said. “Otherwise, I’d be feeling pretty bad.’’

Asked how Savard appeared after yesterday’s practice, McQuaid said, “I think he looks good. He says he feels good and he’s in good spirits and everything. Obviously, we’re anxious to get him back, because he’ll be a big help to the team.’’

Though his role has been diminished of late, McQuaid has embraced the responsibility of helping Savard toughen up.

“Before he was cleared for contact, we were doing skates and stuff,’’ McQuaid said. “Now that we can get a little bit of a battle going, we’re doing some work on the boards and stuff like that, just trying to get him back into somewhat game situations.

“I definitely don’t want to crush him from behind or anything like that. I’m just trying to give him a little resistance and get him used to getting pushed and getting shoved and stuff like that.

“You can skate all day, but it’s different when you get into the battles, it’s a different kind of energy, so I guess I’ve just tried to get him back to the game as quick as possible.’’

Whether he returns in early or mid December, Savard knows with each practice, and each one-on-one battle with McQuaid, it brings him that much closer.

“I’m pretty much where I expected I’d be,’’ Savard said. “And I’m getting closer.’’

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