Whenever the Boston Bruins start the second round of the playoffs, they will have Marc Savard in the lineup.
The top-line center, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion March 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, has received medical clearance to play.
Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that Savard was examined Monday afternoon by neurologist Jeremy Schmahamann at Massachusetts General Hospital and had passed all necessary tests.
"He (Schmahamann) examined Marc, he had some further discussion with our doctors and he has been cleared to play," said Chiarelli. "I'll leave it up to Claude (Julien, coach) as far as putting the lines together and who plays and who doesn't play. Marc is ready to go. We'll see how his conditioning goes, but I know from talking to him he's very anxious to play."
Savard began skating April 18, and has been practicing with the team since April 24. Chiarelli said he isn't exactly surprised Savard is able to play again, but admits he had doubts his top center would be available anytime before next season.
"I use Patrice (Bergeron) as a reference point," said Chiarelli of his center, who suffered a season-ending concussion 10 games into the 2007-08 season. "I saw Patrice after his concussion and when I saw Savvy after his, and there was a big difference. They were both obviously very severe. As I saw Savvy recuperate, a lot of things happened more quickly compared to Patrice. There were some doubts at points in time because he still had that glazed look. These things turn, they don't recover in the same way as a torn ligament or separated shoulder. They can turn quickly. That happened with Marc and you could see a real change. When I saw that, I had a pretty good idea he'd be back if we could stretch it out."
Savard, who was limited to just 41 games this season due to a broken foot and the concussion, had 33 points and is the Bruins' most creative offensive player.
"He's an elite player," said Chiarelli. "He's been chomping at the bit to play. The fact that we were able to clinch and give him some time to get acclimated and get some full practices in is beneficial to (Savard) and the team. He's a terrific offensive player. You've seen his performances in playoffs. He really works on the two-way side of his game in the playoffs. It's like a trade deadline acquisition. We're adding a very good player to our mix for the next series."
Chiarelli said how Savard is used will be up to Julien. Last season, Savard and Milan Lucic, along with the since-traded Phil Kessel formed Boston's best line. Could two-thirds of that group be reunited? Lucic played on multiple lines in the first round against Buffalo, but was with David Krejci and Miroslav Satan in Game 6, and that trio was responsible for the eventual game-winning goal.
"I thought he (Lucic) was reinvigorated (Monday) playing with Krejci," Chiarelli said of Lucic. "I talked to Claude about potential lineups and ultimately that's the coach's decision on who the lines are, who are the defense pairings, who's the goalie. With Milan, I thought he moved the puck well, I felt he moved his feet well (Monday). I think he adds a different dimension on that line than Marco (Sturm) did. Marco brought the speed, Milan brings the body, the physicality, and I didn't mind what I saw on that line. Having said that, there was good chemistry last year between Marc and Milan. Who knows what lineup Claude will come up with?"
If the Washington Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their first-round series Wednesday, the Bruins and Penguins could meet in the second round, but Chiarelli is confident what happened between Cooke and Savard back in March won't become an on-ice issue.
"I think our group is pretty focused right now," said Chiarelli. "I know it'll be talked about in the media and certainly be one of the major storylines. I like the focus of our group right now and I don't think it'll be too much of a distraction."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org