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Savard easing back in

Center happy with progress

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 7, 2010

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WILMINGTON — Two games into his latest recovery, Marc Savard is pleased with how his NHL return has progressed: an 8-1 thrashing of Tampa Bay in his first game back at TD Garden, followed by a game in front of family and friends at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, the rink closest to his offseason home in nearby Peterborough.

“It’s been a fabulous couple days for me, that’s for sure,’’ Savard said after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “Right from Thursday on, it’s been great. I’m excited to get back out in front of the crowd again and hopefully contribute. That’s what I want to do. I’m feeling slowly better each day. I didn’t have as good a game in Toronto as I did at home, when I felt the skating was much better. But it’s going to come.’’

Last year, Savard made the mother of all comebacks. On May 1, the first time he hit the ice after his March 7 concussion, Savard scored in overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 series lead over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

This time, expectations are far more tempered for Savard. He’s being eased back into the lineup as the No. 3 center between Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin. Last year, Savard averaged 18:34 of ice time per game, second-most among team forwards behind Patrice Bergeron (18:54). Against the Lightning, Savard played 15:45, then had his ice time dip to 14:21 against the Maple Leafs.

The joke around the dressing room has been that Savard’s biggest contributions have taken place after coming off the ice. Last Thursday, one shift after Savard returned to the bench in the second period, Shawn Thornton netted a goal to make it a 4-1 game. In Toronto, Savard rimmed the puck into the offensive zone in the third period, then went for a change. Gregory Campbell rolled over the boards, played give-and-go with Seguin, then hammered a go-ahead goal past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

“Maybe if I just keep coming off, that will be a good line. We’ll see,’’ said Savard with a laugh. “It worked out perfectly. I dumped it in, went to the bench, and he ended up hopping in the slot for a goal. It was nice to see.’’

Realistically, it could be later this month until Savard hits his stride. Right now, parts of his game have been sharp. Savard’s been happy with his hands. He has skated well. He hasn’t ducked physical engagement. But as expected, those parts haven’t come together just yet.

“I think I can contribute more than I am right now,’’ said Savard (zero points, four shots in two games). “That’s just the competitor in me. I want to contribute. I think the biggest thing is that I’ve just got to keep skating. I was standing around last game, and that makes me even a little bit slower. Once I keep skating, I’ll be up to pace. I’m working through that.’’

Caron to Providence After yesterday’s practice, the Bruins assigned Jordan Caron to Providence. The 20-year-old rookie had been a healthy scratch for the past two games. Caron practiced yesterday on a spare line with Marco Sturm and Daniel Paille.

In his most recent game, the 3-0 win over Philadelphia last Wednesday, Caron skated on the fourth line with Campbell and Thornton. But with the activation of Savard, Caron became the second extra forward along with Paille.

Caron made the team out of training camp because of his two-way play, hockey sense, and maturity. In 20 games, Caron has three goals and four assists while averaging 13:17 of ice time, more than fellow rookie Seguin (12:39). In Providence, Caron should play in all situations.

“I’m not going to be the one making that decision,’’ said Caron prior to the assignment when asked if he preferred to play in Providence. “I think I’ve played good lately in the last games that I’ve played in. We have such a deep lineup. For sure I want to be on the ice playing in games. Right now, I’m happy being here, practicing with the guys, and hanging around. I want to stay positive and hopefully get my shot.’’

Hip hooray Tim Thomas made one of the NHL’s sharpest saves Saturday when he dived to his left and snagged what should have been a Francois Beauchemin overtime winner. Had the play took place last year before his hip surgery, said Thomas, no way he makes that save. “I would have just been stuck and not been able to get over there,’’ said Thomas, who was tracking Clarke MacArthur before the dive-and-save. “That particular play, the way it came out, I lost the puck behind my D. I lost the puck for a second, then I saw it coming out. Last year, I think I would have just been stuck in the butterfly . . . I would have just watched it. I probably would have read it, but watched it go in the net.’’ Thomas could have pushed off his right leg. But when he transferred his weight to his left leg to push for the dive, it would have been too painful for him to attempt the stop . . . Thomas should start tonight against Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, his former Olympic teammate. It will be the first time since the Olympics the two Yanks will start against each other. On Nov. 3, in their previous meeting, Miller was shelved because of a leg injury. The Bruins beat Jhonas Enroth and the Sabres, 5-2. “I think they’re a much better team now than they were the last time we played them,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “Their goaltender’s obviously finding his game again.’’ Yesterday, Miller was named the Second Star of the Week. Miller recorded back-to-back shutouts last Friday and Saturday against Columbus and Ottawa.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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