Savard is cleared to resume practice

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By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / November 20, 2010

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WILMINGTON — Marc Savard passed a conditioning test yesterday morning and was cleared to return to practice and take part in noncontact drills. The Bruins were so pleased with the development that general manager Peter Chiarelli held a news conference to make the announcement.

Savard, who suffered a concussion March 7, returned for some playoff games, then began experiencing post-concussion symptoms during the summer and has not played this season.

Chiarelli said the 33-year-old center still needs to undergo tests next week before resuming contact, but Savard’s return to the ice yesterday was very good news.

“We’re in a crunch of games,’’ said Chiarelli. “It’ll be good to get a player of his caliber back and this is a real positive step to getting him back.’’

Chiarelli acknowledged having a date in mind for Savard to play in his first game, but declined to share it.

“These things change,’’ he said, “but this is a real big step.

“There’s been a big difference in the last 3-4 weeks. His color is back, his swagger is back. Each day he’s getting better physically and mentally. He’s chomping at the bit.’’

Coach Claude Julien has waited a long time to get his playmaking center back.

“I think it’s been encouraging news for everybody involved,’’ Julien said. “It’s been a long road for him to get to where he is right now. We’ll continue to take it step by step, but it’s certainly encouraging.’’

Savard disappeared after leaving the ice, but a Bruins staffer said he would be available for comment today.

Savard had only a handful of teammates with whom to skate and shoot yesterday, as most of the players were given a day of rest to break up a frenetic stretch of four games in six nights. Joining Savard on the ice were David Krejci, also recovering from a concussion; Marco Sturm, on his way back from knee surgery; Johnny Boychuk, who played his first game Thursday after fracturing his left forearm a month ago; Adam McQuaid, back to being the extra defenseman; and goalie Tim Thomas, who served as Tuukka Rask’s backup Thursday.

“We’ve got such a heavy schedule and we have to look at it that way,’’ said Julien. “It’s unfortunate that you’re still in the first half of the season and you really have to manage your offdays this way. We could certainly use the practice, but right now it’s balancing whether the practice is going to help you more at this point or whether it’s rest. We’re sensing that the players are giving everything they have, but at one point that tank’s going to be empty. You don’t want to let it get empty.’’

Krejci remains day-to-day for returning to game action.

“He’s passed his tests,’’ said Julien. “It’s now a matter of if he comes in and he’s 100 percent, we’ve got to consider putting him in. He’s got to be 100 percent and he’s the only one who’s going to know. We’ve told him 95 is not good enough. With a concussion, you can’t be 95 percent.’’

As his top players start returning to the ice, Chiarelli will have to make some personnel moves to accommodate the salary cap.

“I’ve got a couple of ideas,’’ Chiarelli said. “It’s not a pleasant thing to have to do some things, but there’s things that are a reality in this salary-cap world. We’re able to have the success to date because of the tools of the [collective bargaining agreement], the long-term injury, and now at some point that’s going to come to an end. I’ve had some discussions, I’ve got some ideas, and things have moved along enough that if I have to execute, I could.’’

Watching Milan Lucic hold court in a corner of the locker room yesterday, still beaming after his hat trick in the 4-0 victory over the Panthers Thursday, it seems clear the Bruins have created good team chemistry on their way to an 11-5-0-1 record. Lineup changes, even with the return of two slick playmaking centers, could be unsettling.

“That’s a concern,’’ Chiarelli said. “That’s one of the variables you put in the equation. Being in this business, from the players’ perspective, they recognize that there are trades, there are player transactions. They’re pretty disciplined to shut it out.’’

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