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Bruins hold breath on Savard

Exam set for his latest head injury

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 24, 2011

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Yesterday, while his Bruins teammates skated at the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center, Marc Savard was back in Boston, awaiting the next step in evaluating his latest head injury.

Savard, who remained in Denver Saturday instead of flying to Los Angeles for tonight’s game, returned to Boston yesterday. He was accompanied by assistant equipment manager Matt Falconer. Savard is scheduled to be examined by doctors today, when the organization will learn more about his status, including whether he suffered a concussion, as the Bruins fear.

At 3:19 in the second period of the Bruins’ 6-2 win Saturday over the Avalanche, Matt Hunwick — the former Bruin who had been wheeled to Colorado to clear cap space for Savard — thumped his former teammate into the Pepsi Center end boards. Savard, who does not wear a shield, absorbed the brunt of the hit around his left cheek.

During his rehabilitation from a concussion sustained last March after a blindside hit by the Penguins’ Matt Cooke, Savard experimented with a visor during practice. But he opted not to use the shield because of how sweat pooled on it and dripped into his eyes.

Saturday’s wallop was the second head shot for Savard in seven days. On Jan. 15, Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland finished his check on Savard, ramming him into the TD Garden wall. Savard didn’t miss any time after that hit and practiced the next day.

The concern is how Savard will react to this latest blow if he has been diagnosed with another concussion, even if it is milder than his previous one. Experts believe that athletes who suffer successive concussions are at risk for long-term damage. Savard also had been diagnosed with depression before his return on Dec. 2.

However, all athletes react differently to repeated concussions. Patrice Bergeron, whose career was threatened when he was decked by then-Philadelphia defenseman Randy Jones on Oct. 27, 2007, took another head shot Dec. 20, 2008. That time, Bergeron ran into current teammate Dennis Seidenberg, then a Carolina defenseman.

Like Savard, Bergeron needed help from his teammates to skate off the ice. On Saturday, Bergeron and Zdeno Chara supported Savard as he skated to the dressing room.

“It was more of a here-we-go-again type of feeling,’’ Bergeron said of his second concussion. “ ‘Am I OK? Am I going to be OK?’ But two, three, four days after, I realized that it wasn’t even close to the one before. It gave me some hope. I was positive after that. But the first couple days, I was like, ‘Oh my God, am I going to go through this all over again?’ It was more that feeling than the symptoms. The symptoms were there, but it wasn’t as hard. It wasn’t as big. It was more my spirit that was hurt more than anything else.’’

That concussion wasn’t as serious as the previous one, but Bergeron didn’t play again until Jan. 27, 2009. He didn’t reclaim his offensive touch until the following season, a frustrating outcome because the center believed he was finding his pace before he barreled into Seidenberg.

“I felt like I was getting back on track a little bit,’’ said Bergeron. “I was feeling better. As a player, you obviously want to get back to where you were before right away. It took me some time. I was pushing and pushing and I felt like I was there. It happened again, so it was hard. I don’t know what the situation is with Savvy. But for myself, it was hard to take. But after a couple days, I was positive, took some time to heal, and bounced back.’’

It’s a good bet that regardless of his doctors’ prognosis, Savard will be shut down until after the All-Star break. The Bruins’ final pre-break game is Wednesday at home against Florida. It is unknown how much time Savard will need to recover and calm his nerves, which, like Bergeron’s, were undoubtedly jolted after Hunwick’s check.

Yesterday, because of Savard’s absence, the coaching staff reconfigured the lines. The former No. 1 line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton — the top threesome when Savard was unavailable at the beginning of the season — was reunited. While stone-cold Horton has been invisible on the scoresheet (one goal in his last 18 games), Lucic scored twice against the Avalanche, assisted each time by Krejci.

Tyler Seguin, formerly riding with Lucic and Krejci, moved to the No. 3 line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. Daniel Paille, a healthy scratch the last four games, practiced on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.

The No. 2 line of Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi, the team’s most consistent threesome, remained together.

Ex-Bruin Marco Sturm, on the shelf because of tendinitis in his knee, hosted some of his former teammates the last two nights at his temporary home in Manhattan Beach. The Kings left wing, who’s put up a 4-4—8 line in 15 games, could be activated off injured reserve this week . . . Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s practice ended after his left knee buckled while stopping close-range shots. Rask limped off, but he wasn’t concerned about the tweak . . . Expect Tim Thomas to make his second straight start tonight. Thomas stopped 32 of 34 shots against Colorado . . . Mark Stuart, a healthy scratch against the Avalanche, most likely will sit again tonight . . . The Bruins will remain in Los Angeles after tonight’s game. They will fly back to Boston tomorrow morning.

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

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