Savard shows signs of slight progress

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / October 2, 2010

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BELFAST — Marc Savard isn’t expected to return to the Bruins’ lineup soon, but he is making some slight, encouraging progress.

“Baby steps,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli, watching his Savard-less squad practice here yesterday morning in prepartion of its exhibition game tonight against a collection of UK All-Stars. “It’s going to be awhile for Savvy, and we’re taking it slow, but . . . he’s exercising a little, getting his heart rate up again . . . so, yes, some good signs.’’

Savard, near tears last week as he talked for the first time about lingering symptoms, including depression, linked to post-concussion syndrome (PCS), remains back in Boston. According to Chiarelli, he has begun riding a stationary bike, often the first step in recovery from PCS, and has elevated his heart rate to the range of 110-120 beats per minute.

Chiarelli said the plan is for Savard to try to sustain that light level of exercise for “eight or nine’’ days, while consulting along the way with the club’s medical staff. Provided he is able to tolerate the light workouts, he’ll try something a little more taxing, right around the time the Bruins return from their European swing a week from Monday.

According to Chiarelli, Savard looked and acted more like his old self earlier this week when he joined the club for its two-day Vermont getaway. The trip, billed as a team-bonding retreat, had the 33-year-old Savard navigating one of three suspended “high wires’’ that players had to cross on foot while teammates below added their support (and, no doubt, a steady stream of verbal, though good-natured, cheap shots).

“Now, mind you, it was the easiest of the three wires in terms of exertion, but it was great he got up there,’’ noted Chiarelli. “He was smiling and, you know, jabbing guys. He had to get across a wire 30 feet high, and that took some balance, concentration, focus. Then they had a rock, paper, scissors tournament and he won that. That had him chirping a little.’’

Savard planned all along not to be on the trip to Northern Ireland, and initially the front office said he might come next week to Prague, where the Bruins will open the season with back-to-back games next weekend against Phoenix. Given that he is riding the bike in Boston and experiencing a little traction on the PCS front, said Chiarelli, it’s more likely that he will remain in the Hub and try to build on that bit of momentum.

“I wouldn’t rule out his coming over,’’ said Chiarelli. “But as I’ve said to Marc, it could be more conducive [to his return] to stay there right now, and feel good, be comfortable and just keep in that routine.’’

Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion in March, returned to the lineup two months later to face Philadelphia in the playoffs, and made no public mention of PCS upon leaving for the summer. After beginning to skate again over the summer, he said he shut down his workouts abruptly when he experienced PCS symptoms. He has not skated in weeks and though neither Savard nor the club have offered a possible return date, it likely could be December or later before he is able to play again.

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