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Savard hopes to return to Bruins to face Sabres

by John McGourty
BOSTON -- Boston Bruins' first-line center Marc Savard, who has been sidelined by a concussion since March 7 when he was hit in the head by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke, skated Monday morning and hopes to rejoin the team for their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Eastern Conference Quarterfinal is tied, 1-1, with Game 3 Monday night (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).

Savard will undergo an exertion test Tuesday afternoon in hopes of getting clearance to play. Savard said he won't be able to play in Game 3 Monday night at TD Garden and is unlikely to be ready for Game 4 here Wednesday. Savard needs to work on his conditioning before playing.

"Tomorrow is another big day, I've got my neuro-psych test," Savard said. "Assuming I pass that, I'll be cleared and then it's just a matter of getting back in shape. I haven't done anything in six weeks and I felt a little shortwinded out there today, just because of that. It's going to take some time, hopefully sooner than later. I'm excited. I was feeling good and it's playoff time."

Savard's concussion symptoms disappeared about 10 days ago and he has played golf and worked on conditioning since then. He skated Monday with a stick and a puck and his hand-eye coordination and shooting were good.

"It was about 30 minutes and it was the first time I skated," Savard said. "It felt great. The biggest thing was the last seven days, I felt great. I talked to the doctor and asked if I could go out and putt or something and he said, 'go ahead.' I started the Saturday before, putted for a half hour, went home and felt great. Continued on Sunday, got out again and did a little more putting. Hopefully, I won't be using that putter again for awhile. I felt great all week. Yesterday, I did an exertion test and everything felt great again last night.

"Today was my first day on the ice. I feel normal again so it's nice."

Savard has not yet been cleared to play or engage in more intense physical conditioning. But that could happen as soon as Tuesday.

"I'd like to play tonight, but I have to be realistic and take the proper steps," Savard said. "I'm hopeful, but I can't see me playing in these next two games, that's for sure. Down the road, maybe, it will come down to a coach's decision, a (doctor's decision) and myself.

"The biggest thing is I'm just happy to feel like myself again and be around the guys, especially at this exciting time. I've been watching the games on TV and I couldn't sit down the last couple of days, watching the games and running around the house. There were some tense times, that's for sure."

Savard, 32, is a 12-year NHL veteran who previously played with the Atlanta Thrashers, Calgary Flames and New York Rangers. He had 10 goals, two of them game-winners, and 33 points in 43 games during the regular season.

The Bruins signed him as a free agent in 2006 and he led the team in scoring the next three seasons. He's had a tough season in 2009-10, missing 15 games in October and November with a broken left foot. He missed eight games in January with a right-knee injury and has missed 20 games since Cooke's hit.

"The training staff is excellent here," Savard said. "I've had a tough year with injuries and every time I've got injured, I've done a good job of staying in shape and working on things. ... But nothing is going to be like a game. Most players, this time of year, are playing on emotion. My first game or two, when I do come back, I imagine I'll be at a high. That might overcome a bit of the unconditioned part. But I want to be in condition so I don't put myself in an awkward or bad situation."

Savard is one of the NHL's best puckhandlers and passers and was glad to learn those skills haven't eroded.

"Thank God, that part didn't go away," Savard said. "It felt really good, controlling the puck and shooting. I felt good in that area. Even when I got tired, I still was able to work the puck pretty good."

Bruins' right wing Shawn Thornton is one of Savard's best friends on the team. Asked what signs he'd look for to judge that Savard was in good shape, Thornton joked, "In this weather, if he's hitting golf balls."

Told Savard had only been on the putting green, Thornton cracked, "Oh, and then he took the brisk walk. I guess he's ready, huh?

"I was more concerned about his health than anything else," Thornton said. "I'm glad to see he's back from that. Now, if he can play, great. He's arguably our best player. We have a lot of great players and he's right there. He definitely helps, if we have him, but right now, it's what we have here and we have to continue to play. Everyone is happy to see he's doing better. Now, I'm going to worry about tonight's game."

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