WILMINGTON, Mass. — Now center Marc Savard should finally be treated like the rest of his Bruins teammates.
Skating in his first practice since getting medical clearance to compete in games today at Ristuccia Arena, Savard stayed on the ice longer than the rest of the players he’s expected to while he did extra conditioning work with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides.
“Today, I guess, was my last kind of test,” he said after he had time to clean up and catch his breath. “A little bit it felt like the Boston Marathon, Heartbreak Hill or whatever it’s called. So they made it pretty tough today, but I got through it. And I skated hard in practice too. I gave it all I’ve got so it was a good test. And I’m feeling great. I’m really excited to get the opportunity to play in the playoffs again.”
As the Bruins’ leading scorer the last three seasons, there will always be a spotlight on Savard. But now that attention can trend more toward what he’s able to do with a stick and a puck in the Bruins’ second round series against either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh rather than how his head’s doing as he makes a comeback from a March 7 Grade 2 concussion.
Savard’s teammates are eager to have him back on and off the ice full-time.
“He’s obviously our best offensive guy, our best set-up guy,” said defenseman Dennis Wideman. “He brings some lightness to the room. He’s always talking, he’s always joking around.”
Head coach Claude Julien skated Savard between Vladimir Sobotka and Michael Ryder today, with Blake Wheeler shifting down the depth chart to the Bruins’ energy line. Savard said he has liked the way both his wingers played so far in the playoffs and he’s excited to play with them. Julien, however, stressed (as always) that the lines today aren’t necessarily going to be his Game 1 units.
“It’s a start right now. We put him there,” Julien said. “I don’t think you want to give him too much to chomp at. It’s important for him to just get himself feeling good and giving him a chance to get better as we move on here. When you’ve been out for two months, it’s important for you to come in and be given a fair chance to help your hockey club.”
There’s no doubt a healthy Savard will give the Bruins a boost at even strength and on the power play. Boston can now boast three legitimate offensively threatening lines that will make other teams struggle to defend. They won’t be able to pay special attention to Savard.