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Long wait is finally over for Savard

Veteran center makes his return

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / December 3, 2010

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The wait officially ended for Marc Savard at 7:02 p.m. yesterday when the Bruins’ veteran center, his head clear and a twinkle in his eye, rushed onto the TD Garden ice against Tampa Bay.

“You don’t know what you have sometimes,’’ mused the 33-year-old Savard, “until you lose it.’’

What Savard got was a warm reception from the sellout crowd of 17,565 and an impressive night’s work in which he logged 15:45 in ice time in the Bruins’ 8-1 rout. He went without a point, but he moved well, used his stick to break up a number of Lightning passes, and came out of it all feeling fine and wanting more — which he’ll get tomorrow night when the Bruins play in Toronto.

“I was hoping for a miracle today,’’ said a smiling Savard. “It didn’t happen, but . . . ’’

But, no dizzy spells, no nausea, no depression, no needless worries. Savard traded shoulder bumps and knocks in open ice. No fake artistry about it, he played well from start to finish, although he noted feeling winded when a few of his 21 shifts ran a little longer than anticipated.

“It’s been six months, a long time,’’ he said. “Shaking off a bit of the rust, you know, but I felt I made some good plays and I felt there’s some stuff I can build off.’’

For Savard, who last played in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series against Philadelphia in May, it was the end of an almost seven-month wait to get back on the ice. He reported to Boston in early September but soon was headed back home to Ontario, diagnosed with depression and other symptoms related to postconcussion syndrome.

Savard said he received upward of 700 letters, fans writing with their good wishes, support, and health tips. Not one of them, said Savard, slipped in a request for a Christmas gift.

“No, no one asked for anything,’’ he said. “Incredible. You go through times like this, and you appreciate [that kind of support]. You appreciate what you have.’’

Coach Claude Julien rolled Savard over the boards for the first time at 2:27 of the first period and the clever center made a bee line across the ice to make contact with Tampa Bay winger Teddy Purcell. It wasn’t much of a hit, but it carried the obvious message that Savard, not known for his contact game, didn’t intend to spend the evening as a shrinking wallflower.

“That was one of my plans, to get involved right away, to show that I’m going to test it,’’ he said. “I’m going to be the one pursuing it and getting it, so I tried to do that.’’

Savard’s linemates were rookie Tyler Seguin and veteran Michael Ryder, who was in desperate need of having Savard around to dish him soft, accurate passes. Moments into his first shift, Savard hunkered down to take a faceoff deep in Boston’s end and was quickly tossed out of the circle when the linesman felt he was cheating. So some things don’t change.

The Garden crowd, cheering Savard to that point, made a quick flip to a chorus of boos — aimed at the linesman, of course.

Not much later in the period, with Steven Stamkos sent off for a slashing minor, Savard was sent out to center the No. 1 power-play unit, flanked by Ryder and Mark Recchi.

Savard didn’t land a shot on net in the first period, but had a very busy stick, twice preventing the Lightning from leaving their zone, and he also was a proficient 3 for 4 when he wasn’t tossed out of the faceoff circle. For the night, he won 5 of 10 faceoffs.

Knocked senseless by a blind-side hit to the head by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke in March — a hit that eventually led the league to rewrite the rule book — Savard returned to action with the same protective headgear he wore at the time of impact. Same helmet, same lining, just fairly new out of the box.

“Nothing really different,’’ he said. “I am just going to keep them fresh.’’

In other words, Savard will ditch the helmet two or three times during the season.

Home cooking Seguin, a Toronto home boy, will play his first game as a Bruin in Air Canada Centre tomorrow night. It also will be the first time he has ever played in that building. “Just never happened,’’ said Seguin. The flashy freshman has traded text messages in recent days with the home folks, his mother asking what kind of meal he would like when he pulls into the driveway tonight as a full-time working man. The menu? “Maybe something nice — steak and lobster,’’ he said. “I don’t know.’’

Scratch tickets With Savard back in action, the Bruins had Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron as healthy scratches. The Bolts gave the night off to Mattias Ritola and Mathieu Roy . . . Vincent Lecavalier remains out of the Tampa lineup after surgery to repair a busted knuckle . . . Tampa goalie Mike Smith gave up an embarrassing goal with 20 seconds left in the opening period when he misplayed Dennis Seidenberg’s clear-view wrister from some 8 feet beyond the blue line. Smith was caught stumbling near the right post, moving to his left in anticipation of Seidenberg belting the puck around the boards. Smith awkwardly attempted to get back in position, but he was too late — and Seidenberg’s first goal of the year was in the back of the net . . . Asked after the morning skate if he prepared two lineups, one with Savard and one without, Julien said, “I’ve had that for a month!’’

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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