WILMINGTON, Mass. — For the first time since he was cleared for full contact earlier this week, Bruins center Marc Savard went through all the usual paces of a 45-minute on-ice practice.

“It felt really good, actually, to be out there with the guys,” said Savard after he came off the ice. “I felt really good. I was really surprised, actually. The only thing was when [head coach] Claude [Julien] didn’t mention the drill, it took me a couple watches until I got it right. But that was the only thing.”

Savard said his stamina has improved since he started skating on his own early last month and that he was juiced about skating on a line with Daniel Paille and Michael Ryder, and also getting in some work on the power play. Really, right now, the toughest thing to do is simulate contact. That’s where defenseman Adam McQuaid, demoted back to seventh-defenseman status since the return of Johnny Boychuk from injury last week, comes in.

“I’m not worried about it. I’d like to maybe go looking for it first – not that I hit a lot,” said the center. “But it’s one thing I’d like to test out, that’s for sure. [McQuaid] has caught me a couple times in practice there at the end and [Wednesday after the morning skate] he got me there in the chin. He’s pushing me hard. But still, nothing’s like games and I can’t wait for that day.”

McQuaid needs to keep himself sharp for the next time Boston has an emergency situation in its lineup. He could fill in for a hurt defenseman, or maybe even be called upon if the Bruins dress seven D. That could be the scenario in Atlanta Sunday, as forwards Jordan Caron and David Krejci are both questionable with the flu. Neither sick player practiced today. With Jamie Arniel recalled Saturday afternoon on an emergency basis, however, the Bruins should be set up front.

Although he could be in for a long haul of healthy scratches, McQuaid is glad to pitch in where he can. If his hard work helps Savard get back sooner, he can add that to his resume.

“I’ll take [the credit], I guess, if I can. But we just want to see him get back as soon as possible. Whatever you can do to help out,” said McQuaid.

Savard said that the heavy workload of on-ice practicing and off-ice workouts hasn’t brought with it any hint of the post-concussion symptoms he was suffering over the summer. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to jump into Krejci’s spot just because Boston is short a center. He ruled out playing in Atlanta and still talked about a return in the month of December.

“Whether that’s early December, middle, I’m not sure,” he said, “but every day I’m getting closer, doing more drills, working on the battles and just having fun and enjoying every day.”

Julien is also preaching patience about Savard’s return.

“We talked about in December, and from December on, who knows? I think it depends on a lot of things and the bottom line is, when he comes in, he’s got to be able to keep up and be at par,” said the coach. “You certainly don’t want to bring a guy in who’s going to struggle keeping up because it’s not a positive for him, it’s not a positive for the team. That’s what happens when guys are out for a long time, the minute they get cleared people want them to be back right away, and so do they. But you’ve got to make the right decision.”