Savard back on the sideline

Postconcussion symptoms recur for Bruins’ top center

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / September 18, 2010

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Yesterday, the Summer of Savvy took another twist.

Marc Savard signed a seven-year, $28.05 million extension Dec. 1, but six months later he was shopped — despite owning a full no-trade clause — as the Bruins sought cap relief and attempted to open a spot for rookie Tyler Seguin.

In August, Savard’s contract, investigated by the league in December, was studied once more in the wake of Ilya Kovalchuk’s arbitration hearing with the NHL raising the possibility of deregistering the deal. On Sept. 4, after coming to an agreement on long-term contracts with the NHLPA, the NHL announced it would terminate its investigation into Savard’s contract.

Also in August, Savard told the Ottawa Sun that he was hurt by trade rumors. In response, general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with Savard — the market had cooled by then anyway — and informed him he would not be traded.

But yesterday, Chiarelli disclosed that Savard has been sidelined indefinitely after complaining of symptoms consistent with postconcussion syndrome. According to Chiarelli, Savard started experiencing symptoms several weeks ago and has not worked out since. Chiarelli declined to specify Savard’s symptoms.

“Any time there’s this recurrence, there’s concern,’’ Chiarelli said. “He’s a very durable guy. He’s played hurt in the past. He wants to come back. We want him to be healthy.’’

Savard, 33, suffered a major concussion March 7 when he was targeted by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. Savard, citing fatigue, headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light, missed the rest of the regular season and sat out the first round of the playoffs.

But after gaining medical clearance, Savard returned for the Philadelphia series. In his return for Game 1, Savard scored the deciding goal in the 5-4 overtime win.

Earlier this summer, a symptom-free Savard worked out with a personal trainer in Peterborough, Ontario. From Aug. 17-20, Savard golfed in the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship in Gatineau, Quebec.

But yesterday, while teammates underwent fitness testing at TD Garden for today’s on-ice sessions, Savard visited team doctors.

“There’s a lot of incidents of that,’’ said Chiarelli when asked about players, seemingly recovered from their concussions, suffering symptoms later. “He’s in good spirits. I’ve talked to him. I met with him again. He’s in good spirits. He’s anxious to get back. We’re being very cautious. We’ll take it day by day.’’

Considering that Savard hasn’t exercised for several weeks and there are no guesses as to when he might resume workouts, his absence will have a major effect on training camp. The Bruins had projected Savard to be the No. 1 center, perhaps paired with new right wing Nathan Horton. Even if Savard’s symptoms wane soon, it would take some time for him to ramp up his conditioning again.

“I suspect that any time missed from camp for Savvy will have to be made up, just from pure conditioning, to catch up,’’ Chiarelli said. “We’ll take it day by day. But we’re looking at other lineups, with and without Savvy in the lineup.’’

With Savard’s status undetermined, the Bruins have already made changes to their camp plans. Seguin, originally planned to start on the wing, will remain at center, where he skated in rookie camp.

“It’s unfortunate,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Savard’s condition. “Right now, we’re missing a real good player. We certainly want to see him back in our lineup. Those are things, mostly, we can’t control, at least from my end from a coach’s point of view. We’ve got to move without him for the time being. My focus has to be on those 50-plus players we have in training camp. I think it’s pretty unanimous in our group that we want him back as soon as possible. We know the impact he can have on the game when he’s a healthy player. We’ll hope that it gets taken care of and that he comes back in great health soon.’’

Seguin, 18, is just one player who could emerge in Savard’s absence. David Krejci, whose right wrist is close to 100 percent, has been cleared for all activities. Management’s belief that Krejci could emerge as a No. 1 center was one reason Savard was placed on the market.

Joe Colborne, Boston’s 2008 first-round pick, could earn a look in camp. The Bruins had projected Colborne to see time on the wing, but he has played center during rookie camp. He was held out of the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime win Thursday after taking a stick to the face the previous night. Colborne, who’ll wear a full cage, will start camp in noncontact situations, but Chiarelli thought he’d be fine after several days.

Zach Hamill, the No. 8 overall pick from the 2007 draft, was one of the final cuts in last year’s camp. Hamill could have opened the season with the big club had Krejci, coming off hip surgery at the time, been unavailable. Hamill scored 14 goals and 30 assists in 75 games for Providence last season. After the Bruins clinched a playoff spot, Hamill was recalled for the regular-season finale against Washington. In his NHL debut, Hamill recorded one assist.

“It does give an opportunity for some other young players to look at that and say, ‘Here’s my chance,’ ’’ Julien said. “We’ve talked about Zach Hamill, who’s been in our organization for a while. I actually liked the way he played that last game in Washington. This gives other guys opportunities. Joe Colborne is here. Tyler Seguin’s going to be there. Sometimes one of those guys doing such a good job might force us to put Seguin back on the wing.

“What’s happening right now with Savvy is very unfortunate. But I think it opens the door for a lot of players to take advantage of it.’’

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