Only certainty for Savard? Year over

Marc Savard stares straight ahead while Bruins team physician Peter Asnis speaks to the media. Marc Savard stares straight ahead while Bruins team physician Peter Asnis speaks to the media. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 8, 2011

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On Jan. 22, after Matt Hunwick delivered a second-period hit on Marc Savard, trainer Don DelNegro rushed onto the Pepsi Center ice to treat the 33-year-old Bruins center. When DelNegro approached, Savard, who had just sustained a moderate concussion, asked him a question.

Why again?

Trouble is, nobody’s certain why Savard suffered his second concussion in 10 months. Doctors don’t know when Savard’s symptoms — he’s experiencing headaches, memory lapses, and dizziness — will wane. Nobody knows when, or if, Savard can play again.

The only certainty is that Savard will not play again in the 2010-11 season.

Yesterday at TD Garden, following consultations with Savard, his agent, team management, and the medical staff, the Bruins announced that Savard’s season is over. The Bruins placed Savard on long-term injured reserve, which is where he started the season as he attempted to rebound from his previous concussion.

“This stops the temptation,’’ said Mark Recchi, who attended the news conference with teammates Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. “As a player, you try and do whatever you can to get back and play. I think this is just, ‘Let’s get him healthy. Worry about hockey in the summer and get ready for training camp if that’s the case.’ It gives him that much more time to get focused.

“If he comes back [now], his conditioning’s not going to be where it’s at. He’s going to put himself in a bad position. The one thing is that this keeps the temptation from a very competitive guy like Savvy.’’

When he’s healthy, Savard is alert and quick with a joke. Yesterday, he appeared pale, tired, and withdrawn. He slurred some of his words. Several times during a 23-minute news conference, he seemed on the verge of tears.

“I think I’m frustrated mostly,’’ said Savard. “It’s tough to understand why this happens. Obviously the most frustrating thing is to not be able to just know exactly what’s going on and how to cure it. I think it’s just time and patience. Those are things I feel like I don’t have much of. So that makes it tough.’’

Savard will return to his offseason home in Peterborough, Ontario, to rest and hope for his symptoms to clear. He is scheduled to return to Boston in several weeks for testing.

Savard suffered a severe concussion on March 7, 2010, when he was belted by the Penguins’ Matt Cooke. He missed the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, but returned for the second round against Philadelphia, scoring the overtime winner in Game 1.

Last summer, however, Savard was laid flat by post-concussion syndrome symptoms, which included depression. He missed all of training camp and the first 23 games of 2010-11. He ended up with two goals and eight assists in 25 games.

The Bruins have been unable to determine whether Savard’s latest concussion is related to last year’s head injury.

“Marc had complete relief from all his symptoms from last year,’’ said team physician Peter Asnis. “He sustained a hit that was an appropriate hit to cause a concussion. There is certainly a lot of speculation about cumulative effects of concussions. There’s a lot of research going on looking at that. But I think as far as this hit goes, he sustained a concussion that he likely would have had, whether he had a concussion last year, based on that hit.’’

Savard’s current status, coupled with the issues stemming from his previous concussion, puts his career in question. He said he has tried not to think about his future until he overcomes his symptoms. Asnis acknowledged there is research showing that players who have suffered concussions are at greater risk for subsequent head injuries. However, Asnis emphasized that each player and each concussion is different.

“I’ve obviously tried to stay away from that right now,’’ Savard said when asked about retirement. “It’s tough enough as it is not to be able to finish the season. I’m going to get some more medical stuff done and some tests. Then I’ll be able to make some clearer decisions on what my future is. Right now, I’m hoping to continue at some point.’’

Savard remembers the hit, which he absorbed at 3:19 of the second period of the Bruins’ 6-2 win over Colorado. Chara and Steven Kampfer helped him skate off the ice. The following day, Savard returned to Boston.

Savard said Hunwick has contacted him twice to note his regrets about the collision’s outcome. Savard said he didn’t fault Hunwick.

“When I got hit, I had a quick blackout, then I lost all the energy I had at that point in the game,’’ Savard recalled. “I felt weak. Obviously it was nothing compared to the other one.’’

By placing Savard on long-term IR, the Bruins can exceed the cap by the center’s $4.007 million annual hit. For now, the Bruins will look at Zach Hamill, 22, as their third-line center behind Bergeron and David Krejci.

If Hamill isn’t a solution, the Bruins could hunt for help on the trade market. They are also on the lookout for a defenseman and forward depth. Availability of skilled forwards, already thin, will be even more taxed before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Pittsburgh, already missing Sidney Crosby (concussion, return unknown), will be without Evgeni Malkin (knee) for the rest of the season.

“I think it’s going to be a combination of us, how he plays, and upper management as well,’’ said coach Claude Julien of how long Hamill will have to prove himself. “I think all three of those things are going to come into play. The easiest thing is that when a player performs well, he doesn’t give you a choice but to keep him. I think a lot of it will be on his performance. At the same time, you’ve got to give him that opportunity.’’

If Savard returns in 2011-12, it will be the second season of his seven-year, $28.05 million contract. If he retires, he will receive his salary via insurance. His remaining cap hit would be wiped from the Bruins’ books.

“There’s got to be some thoughts,’’ Recchi said. “He’s got three young children. You want to play with them. You want to have fun with them. You want to grow up and be a good dad. You want to be healthy for them.

“He’s got a lot to think about, but the most important thing is that he focuses on getting better, getting healthy. Then he can be a little more clear on his decisions on whether he wants to continue or not.’’

The Bruins recalled Jordan Caron from Providence yesterday. Caron will practice with the big club today at Ristuccia Arena.

Caron, a first-round pick in 2009, made the team out of training camp and appeared in 20 games, scoring three goals and adding four assists. He played left and right wing and killed penalties.

Caron was assigned to Providence Dec. 6. Most recently, he had been playing alongside Hamill and Jeremy Reich. In 27 games for Providence, Caron has six goals and 11 assists.

With Daniel Paille suspended for the next three games, Caron gives the Bruins 13 forwards for tomorrow’s game against Montreal. If the coaching staff wants more beef on the fourth line, Caron could skate alongside Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. With Hamill slated to center Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, Tyler Seguin could be a healthy scratch. Seguin has played fewer than 10 minutes in four straight games.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at

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