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Savard slowly making strides

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 11, 2010

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Perhaps it was overshadowed by Milan Lucic’s power-play goal in the first period, the first salvo in the Bruins’ 5-2 thumping of the New York Islanders Thursday night at TD Garden.

But Marc Savard, playing in his fourth game since his return from post-concussion syndrome, recorded his first point of the season on what he termed a “cheesy’’ assist on Lucic’s tally. It came after Savard’s faceoff victory in the Islanders’ zone.

“Took me a little longer than I would’ve liked, but a little cheesy, too,’’ Savard said after yesterday’s practice at the Garden, where the Bruins prepared for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. “They all count, I guess.’’

Next on Savard’s list: his first goal.

“It’s tough for me, because like I said, I’m an intense guy,’’ he said. “I want results every night and I haven’t been getting them, but I’ve got to realize that it’s been six months that I hadn’t touched the blades and I’m a little bit behind schedule and behind these guys, so hopefully, by the end of the month, I’ll be caught up and things start happening, but I still want more.’’

Savard logged 13:10 of ice time Thursday after playing 16:26 against Buffalo Tuesday.

“There’s no doubt he’s going to get better,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He’s not at the top of his game yet, and we didn’t expect him to be at the top of his game. You’ve got to give him time.

“When you haven’t played in six months, you can’t expect a guy to come back and all of sudden pick up where he left off. That’s what we’re dealing with now. The other part, too, is that he’s got new linemates and he has to deal with that.’’

Savard has worked on the third line with Michael Ryder and rookie Tyler Seguin.

“They’re trying to learn to work with each other and some of the things we did [in yesterday’s practice], down low three-on-three, is important for that line to have some chemistry,’’ Julien said.

Julien said he’s tried to use Savard in different situations. “I even threw him out there on the penalty kill [Thursday] at one point,’’ he said. Savard logged 4:02 on the power play, and spent just 23 seconds on the PK.

“It’s about giving him a little bit more ice [time] and showing some confidence in him and I can do that when I see the progress,’’ Julien said. “He’s coming around. I don’t think it’s at a fast pace, but he’s coming around.’’

Lingering effect There seemed to be some irony in the fact the Bruins defeated the Flyers, 3-0, in their first meeting Dec. 1, after being unable to hold a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

While that victory may have, in some small way, exorcised the demons of the Bruins’ epic playoff collapse, some residue remains.

“I’m sure every time we line up against them, before we play ’em, we think about it,’’ said Savard. “When we do face ’em, it’s definitely at the top of our list.’’

Backed up The Bruins have played five sets of back-to-back games this season and have two more scheduled this month, with all four games on the road. The Dec. 27 game at Florida (followed by the next night at Tampa Bay) kicks off a five-game trip.

“The toughest thing, I think, is when you’re coming back home and you’ve got a team waiting for you in your own city,’’ said Julien. “That’s the toughest task, because you obviously want to do well at home and you know the pressure’s on the home team to do well and win, yet you’ve got a team that’s been watching you play hockey on the road, waiting for you at home.

“So if we’re going to have back-to-backs, I’d rather play the first one at home and go play the second one on the road. Two on the road would seem to be a better fit. But that’s just wishful thinking, hoping that things will go your way. Every team is in that position, I just don’t know whether some teams have more [back-to-back] games than others, which I’m sure they do, and we’re one of the teams that has quite a few.’’

Atop a short list Brad Marchand recorded his third shorthanded goal of the season Thursday night, tying Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux for the league lead. Asked if he had plans on helping his linemate pass Giroux, Shawn Thornton replied, “I’m not going to take penalties to give him the opportunity, if that’s what you’re asking.’’ Not that Marchand is seeking assistance. “If we have to take a penalty, I want to help kill it,’’ he said. “If a goal comes, that’s great. But, first and foremost, we’ve got to kill [the penalty] off.’’ Marchand seems to have embraced his role as a provocateur, happy to chirp at opposing players to get under their skin. “That’s one thing he does well,’’ Julien said. “You can’t take that away from him.’’ It also helps that Marchand has tough-guy Thornton to watch his back. “I kind of get away with a lot of stuff that maybe I wouldn’t if he wasn’t there,’’ Marchand said. “I don’t want to be that kind of guy who has to have other guys fight his battles.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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