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Savard Braces for Contact

by Samantha Wood / Boston Bruins
Boston, MA - It's been a long road for Bruins forward Marc Savard.

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It all began with the hit heard'round the League - an open-ice head hit from Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke, which left Savard unconscious and left League officials having to debate the consequences.

Cooke ultimately went unpunished (in an official capacity at least). Savard, however, was not so lucky.

Savard missed the final 18 games of the regular season, and ended the year with a total of 41 games missed to injury. The Bruins as a team finished up with 191 man-games lost on the year.

But now, after a battery of tests and evaluations, it's almost two months later and Marc Savard is so close to his comeback he can just about smell it. The centerman has recently begun skating with the team and has been cleared for light contact.

He still awaits full medical clearance.

"I felt great. It's a tough situation obviously, it's a huge game and I haven't played in a long time," Savard said. "But I felt great out there and I was controlling the puck well.

"I felt good with the puck and did some more contact down low, another step, and we'll just see what happens."

With only a little more than 24 hours before the puck drops on Game 6 vs. the Buffalo Sabres, Savard admitted that he's itching to get back in the lineup.

However, as is the nature of head injuries, the precise timetable for when he'll be back to his old self is yet undetermined, and maybe even indeterminable.

"Well I still got one more test tomorrow. I don't know what the situation is. We haven't talked much about it yet so obviously it's not looking good right now," he said.

"It was obviously a severe [concussion], so there was that risk the whole time, but I think it comes down to my own judgment on that end of it. I think I can do things and exert myself and get hit."

Bruins head coach Claude Julien emphasized that, although he'd love to see the star forward back in the lineup, he's not planning on pushing anything.

"He's certainly coming around, no doubt," Julien said of Savard's progress. "That's all I can tell you right now because that's all we have.

"We've not yet been told by our medical staff that he's been cleared, so there's nothing we can do more than to keep working with him and try to get him in shape."

During the hour-long practice on the TD Garden ice this afternoon, Savard showed little hesitation when it came to participating in drills and throwing his weight around.

Though none of his teammates attempted to hit him, Savard was more than willing to hit them, an unusual role for the fleet-footed forward.

"I was trying to hit guys myself, which is different anyway," he said with a laugh. "But I'm excited. Whatever it takes for the team to do well, that's what's going to be the best."

Savard said he understands why his teammates are hesitant to create too much contact. With such a severe concussion, there always remains an inherent risk of further injury, even despite completing the recovery process.

"I think obviously looking around the room and talking to guys, my teammates would like me to play too," Savard said. "They're concerned too on the health issue stuff.

"At the end of the day, I think I can help and the guys on my team think I can help."

Helping the team is what the 32-year-old is ultimately looking forward to as he plots his return. The Bruins are up 3-2 in a tight series with Buffalo, and with Game 6 tomorrow, hope to finish it off with a ticket to the next round.

"Who thought I'd be at where I'm at right now? After six weeks of not doing a thing, to just rebounding really quickly and feeling good," Savard said. "So that's the most important thing."

"I feel good, I feel normal. I can enjoy things again and I'm enjoying being back around the guys. So if it takes me playing 10 minutes tomorrow or watching for 60, that's what it's going to be."

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