- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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He was officially given medical clearance on Monday and participated in only his second full-team practice on Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. Savard, who suffered a Grade 2 concussion on March 7, was playing on a normal line and was involved in every aspect as the team prepares for the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Coach Claude Julien said he will ease Savard back into game action, especially since it's the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I would imagine I would be eased in for sure," he said. "I'm not going to be getting the 19 or 20 minutes I would normally get right off the hop and we'll see how things go."
Savard has done everything he's been asked to get as close to game shape as possible, but it's still going to be an adjustment once he steps on the ice.
"Playing games and skating in practice is not the same thing, and any player will tell you that," said Julien. "Having said that, he's ready to go. It's just going to be up to us to make sure we manage his ice and try to put him in situations where he'll benefit and help our hockey club."
Savard won't try to be a hero.
"The first couple of days I was out there I was like, 'Geez, this is going to take a while.' I'm not going to be a savior here and go out and get three goals in the first game. I'd like to, but I don't think it's going to happen," said Savard. "I'm just going to try to work myself in.
"I'm excited, he added. "It looks like I'm going to get to play with Vladdy and Rides, and I love the way those guys have been playing in the playoffs. I especially like the way Vladdy's been going. I'm excited to play between those guys and I think we'll be able to create some things and hopefully get some results to help the team."
Savard has been back on the ice for over a week now, and since he's been cleared to play, he was asked to skate a little extra after practice on Wednesday just to make sure his conditioning level is as close as possible to where it needs to be for the playoffs.
"Felt like the Boston Marathon a little bit, that Heartbreak Hill, or whatever it's called," he said with a laugh. "They made it pretty tough today, but I got through it. I skated hard in practice, too, and I gave it everything I had, so it was a good test. I'm feeling great and I'm really excited about getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs again."
If the Bruins get past Philadelphia, they could end up playing the Penguins in the conference finals. If that happens, Savard won't be concerned with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke, the player who leveled him with a blindside hit and caused the concussion.
"I'm not a killer by any standpoint," said Savard. "I'm not going to go out and look for anything like that. It's more about the team and winning hockey games in the playoffs. There would be other times when things might happen, but I don't see myself looking for a big fight or anything like that."
Savard's mission is to win the battle on the scoreboard.
"I'm going to be as intense as ever," he said. "I'm a pretty intense guy. It's definitely going to mean a lot to myself, and my teammates, because everybody wants to win. Whether it's Pittsburgh or Philly, I'm going to be ready."
Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron knows exactly what it will be like for Savard in his first game back. Bergeron suffered a Grade 3 concussion in October of 2007 and missed the remainder of the season. Once he was able to return to game action the following season, he said the biggest adjustment was getting his timing and rhythm back.
"It's good to have him back," said Bergeron. "He's a great player and he's a big part of our team. Like I've said before, I'm just happy for him that he's feeling better and he's able to return."
Savard has been through a similar situation in the past. At the end of the 2007-2008 season, he suffered a broken bone in his back and missed the final eight games. He was able to return for the playoffs and posted six points in seven games before Boston lost the series to Montreal.
"I eased myself in and I ended up having a pretty good playoffs," admitted Savard. "We didn't get to where we wanted to go, but I felt good and I think it's the same situation. That's how I'm taking it. I'm going to ease myself in and work hard and give what I've got for how ever many minutes I play."
There was so much hype and anticipation surrounding Game 6 of the quarterfinal series against the Sabres this year because Savard thought there was a possibility he would get medical clearance to play. The Bruins decided to wait one more day before announcing he was cleared.
"As you all know, I obviously wanted to be in that game," he said. "I'm an intense person and wanted to play that night, but it was for the best for the team and myself. I really didn't watch much of it, to be honest with you. I watch a bit of the first period from [Level 9 at the Garden] then I turned my head for most of the game. I was kind of nervous."
Savard finished watching the game from the locker room and could hear the fans cheering as the seconds ran off the clock. If there had been a Game 7 in the quarterfinal series, Savard said he would have played.
That's in the past. Savard and the Bruins are now focused on the task at hand.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
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