- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are already feeling pretty good about their chances in their first-round matchup against the Buffalo Sabres, and now comes the news that Bruins forward Marc Savard could return to the ice by the end of this Eastern Conference series.
"I feel great," he said Monday. "The biggest thing is the last seven days I had great days."
Savard, who has been out since suffering a Grade 2 concussion against the Penguins on March 7 in Pittsburgh, skated for the first time since the injury Monday for 30 minutes at TD Garden. He is scheduled to skate again on Tuesday morning and will have a neurological test in the afternoon that he is expecting to pass.
"Assuming I pass [that test] I'll be cleared and it's now it's a matter of getting back in shape," he said. "I haven't done anything in six weeks. I felt a little short-winded out there [Monday] because of that and it's going to take some time. Hopefully a little sooner rather than later because I'm a little excited because I'm feeling good and it's playoff time."
Savard passed an exertion test on Sunday and said he hasn't had any headaches in the last two weeks.
"I feel normal again," he said.
Savard said jokingly that if it were up to him he would play in Monday night's Game 3, but he's realistic that if he returns, it won't be during the next two games in Boston. There is, however, a possibility he could return later in the series.
"I'm hopeful but I can't see the next two games that's for sure," he said. "Down the road -- maybe. It'll be a coach's decision, a training decision and myself. I think I'm still a little ways away. It's going to take some time."
Savard has gained back the weight he originally lost after the hit by the Penguins' Matt Cooke.
"Once I got my taste buds back I definitely ate some food," he said. "The biggest thing is I'm just happy to feel like myself again and being around the guys, especially at this exciting time. I was watching the games on TV and couldn't sit down the last couple of games. I was running around the house, there were some tense times, that's for sure but I'm excited."
Savard's presence gave the Bruins locker room a boost Monday morning, and as much as his teammates would like to have his scoring touch back in the lineup, they want to make sure he's 100 percent ready to return.
"It's great. It's good news, especially first and foremost for his health," said Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "It's tough to come back from and I'm just happy he seems to be feeling better. It's great news and for us it gives us a boost."
Bergeron knows exactly how Savard is feeling at this point. Bergeron suffered a Grade 3 concussion in October of 2007 and missed the rest of the 2007-2008 season. He began to feel better in April and wanted to come back in time for Game 6 or 7 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. The medical staff thought it would be best for Bergeron not to come back too soon and Boston eventually lost that series.
"Looking back at it, it was probably the best thing for me and I'm sure the doctors are going to do the same thing with Savy," Bergeron said. "They're going to look at it and they're going to make the best decision. They're not going to risk anything just because he's ready."
Bruins coach Claude Julien isn't ready to change his lines to accommodate Savard's return just yet.
"He's obviously feeling better, which is an extremely good sign for our hockey club," said Julien. "If you're going to be fair to the player and fair to the team, you've got to give him a chance to get back in shape and that doesn't happen overnight. We have to take it one step at a time and see how he does. Hopefully he continues to get better and the quicker will be good for everyone."
Savard said he "turned a huge corner" when he started feeling normal again on April 9, so he asked his doctor if you could go to the golf course to putt. He was given the OK.
"I went out and putted for a half an hour and went home and felt great," he said. "On Sunday I got out again and did a little more putting. Hopefully I won't have to use that putter for a while. I felt great all week and [Sunday] I did that exertion test and felt great again. [Monday] was my first day back on the ice and I feel normal again."
During his brief twirl on Monday morning, Savard was able to stick handle and shot with no problems.
"Thank God that part didn't go away," said the sniper. "I felt really good controlling the puck and shooting. I felt good in that area, even when I was shooting I was able to work the puck pretty good. That part hasn't left me."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Bruins center Marc Savard is optimistic about a playoff return.