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Sunday, April 25, 2010
Bruins' Savard needs another test

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON -- Bruins forward Marc Savard is itching -- big time -- to play in Game 6 of his team's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday at TD Garden.

Savard had his most intense practice on Sunday when he centered healthy scratches Brad Marchand and Trent Whitfield during drills and looked good.

Savard Condition-wise I felt better again today and I'm taking steps in the right direction. If you asked me, I can play. But in the same sense you have to do what's best for the team.

-- Bruins' Marc Savard

Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion on March 7 in Pittsburgh when he was on the receiving end of a blindside hit by the Penguins' Matt Cooke. Savard missed six weeks before he started skating on his own last week. He's been cleared to participate in contact drills and said he'll have one more examination on Monday morning before he's completely cleared to play.

"I felt great," he said. "It's a tough situation. It's obviously a huge game and I haven't played in a long time. I felt great out there. I was controlling the puck well and had some contact down low."

Bruins coach Claude Julien remains noncommittal on whether Savard will play in this series, which the Bruins can close out Monday. It seems pretty clear, however, that the team will not rush Savard back.

"There's nothing more we can do than keep working with him to get him in shape," said Julien.

After practice on Sunday, Savard was making his case to play, but also knows it's a long shot.

"I don't know what the situation is," he said. "We haven't talked much about it yet. It's not looking good right now."

Being realistic didn't stop Savard from trying.

"Looking around the room, my teammates would like me to play too," added Savard. "They're concerned, too, on the health-issue stuff, but at the end of the day I think I can help and the guys on my team think I can help. They've been playing good hockey and it's tough to mess that up."

Teammate Patrice Bergeron dealt with a similar situation after he suffered a Grade 3 concussion in October 2007. When the Bruins made it to Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens, Bergeron felt he was ready to play. The team decided it was in his, and the team's, best interest to hold him back. Boston lost that series and Bergeron had to wait until the following fall to return. He said recently, looking back, it was the right decision.

Now Savard is going through the same thing.

"There's not much [more] I can do," he said. "I'm going to work hard and be ready to go when [Julien] tells me. The guys are playing well, so I'm not going to go and cause a scene that I want to be in the lineup. Everybody wants to be in the lineup, that's the nature of it. Condition-wise I felt better again today and I'm taking steps in the right direction. If you asked me, I can play. But in the same sense you have to do what's best for the team."

Only a few weeks into his recovery, Savard didn't think he would get to this point this season. He knows he's on the verge of a return and it's obvious he's champing at the bit.

"If it takes me playing 10 minutes tomorrow, or watching for 60 then that's what it'll be," he said.

He said he understands the situation the team is in and the decisions they want to make, but he also said he knows he can handle a game situation right now.

"I'm fresh and other guys are battling every night," he said. "There's a give-and-take either way in that situation. I've been in the NHL for quite a bit of time, so the pace is something I'm familiar with. It would be tough to keep up, for sure, but I think I'd be fine."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for