Daniel Paille dishes out dangerous hit

BOSTON -- It's inevitable that the Boston Bruins will announce sooner rather than later that centerman Marc Savard will miss the remainder of the season because of a concussion.

Savard hasn't been the same since he was on the receiving end of a blindside hit in March that left him with a Grade 2 concussion. He suffered his second head injury in a 10-month period on Jan. 22 and he's still experiencing symptoms. He's going to be re-evaluated on Friday and the team will discuss the situation before making a final decision, but it's likely he's played his last game of the season -- and possibly his career.

While that decision is weighing on the minds of the Bruins, it's almost certain Boston forward Daniel Paille will be suspended for his hit to the head of Dallas Stars forward Raymond Sawada in the second period of Thursday's 6-3 victory at TD Garden.

The Stars gained control of the offensive zone when Paille came across the slot and leveled Sawada. Immediately the referee's arm went up and Paille was handed a major penalty for an illegal hit to the head. Sawada was able to get up on his own and skated off, but did not return.

Paille was not available to talk after the game. The rule does not make it an automatic suspension, but it's likely he'll receive something for his hit.

With Savard's situation up close and personal, the Bruins have made a major issue about hits to the head. Now that it's against one of their own, the Bruins are standing strong on their stance.

"It's a bad hit right? That's what they're trying to get rid of and you can't be hypocritical about it when it happens to you and say it's fine when your teammate does it," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "You hear it from every player after they do it, they feel bad. I talked to Danny and he feels bad. It's tough, that backchecking forward, to make those kind of hits. It's so hard to do it in a clean fashion with the new rules."

Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron knows all too well about concussions and hits to the head. He suffered a Grade 3 head injury in October of 2007 and missed the remainder of the '07-08 season. It took him a long time to regain his ability to compete at a high level, and he takes these situations very seriously.

Since Savard's concussion in March, Bergeron has been outspoken about the issue.

"I didn't see it," Bergeron said of Paille's hit. "Obviously, when a guy is coming in like that and he's in a vulnerable position, usually you try not to hit him. I know [Paille] is my teammate, but I didn't see the hit enough to comment on it.

"Obviously, I'm not going to stand here -- if it is a head shot -- I'm not going to stand here and say it wasn't. To be honest, I have to look at it again, but I have to be honest with myself. I've been saying it before that we have to get rid of that, and we'll see what happens.

"I was happy that [Sawada] got up and he seemed OK. You don't want to see that, especially in the center of the ice, and you want to try to avoid his head."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team's victory that he'll respect any decision the league hands down, but he also believes Paille did not have the intention to injure.

"I look at the hit and I know that it certainly wasn't intentional," Julien said. "Sawada came through the slot, he lost the puck and was reaching for it, so he was a little low.

"I guess there's an argument to be made there and that's why there are lots of meetings about that stuff, as far as whose responsibility it is. At that point, I don't know if Dan could have stopped, or if he could have done something different. I'm going to let the league look at it and I'm certainly going to support my player. I know for a fact: If anything, he was going shoulder to shoulder."

No question it was a touchy subject in the Bruins' locker room after the game. Some would like to believe it was clean hit, but it's a serious subject nonetheless, especially in Boston.

Just ask Marc Savard.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.