- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Until the puck drops for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Boston and Philadelphia on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) at TD Garden, Bruins coach Claude Julien will continue to shuffle his lines around a bit as he tries to find winning combinations.
How to work Marc Savard into the Boston lineup will be a major part of the game-planning for Julien. Savard, who has been out since March 7 with a Grade 2 concussion, has was cleared to play earlier this week and already has been on two different lines during practice.
When the Bruins took to the ice Thursday morning at Ristuccia Arena, Savard was with left winger Daniel Paille and right winger Michael Ryder. Savard also worked on the power play, but don't believe Julien is just going to thrust him back into action.
"Guys, I can't repeat it enough," Julien said. "We've got to be careful that we don't think, all of a sudden, Marc Savard is going to come in and all of a sudden control everything. He hasn't played in two months, so let's understand he's going to need some time."
Savard is realistic about the amount of ice time he'll get in Game 1. He'll likely play an average of 10 to 12 minutes and also spend some time on the second power-play unit.
"We're going to make sure, again, to give him that opportunity to better himself as we move on here," Julien said. "You've got a great player coming into your lineup, but you've got a great player who hasn't played in two months and is stepping into the second round of the playoffs. Cautious is certainly something we have to be when it comes to that and not put too much on his plate. We need to give him a chance to get better here properly."
Julien, and the rest of the coaching staff, have had serious discussions with Savard just to make sure he understands what his role will be until he proves he can handle the postseason level of play.
"Of course he doesn't want to fail at coming back," Julien said. "He wants to succeed, so we need to help him succeed. The best way to succeed is by putting him in situations that are going to make him succeed, but don't over-utilize him where he's going to hurt himself and hurt us more than he's going to help. It's about managing the ice time and the situations he's in."
Savard was one of the last players off the ice again Thursday and he said he's comfortable with Paille on his line because he creates a lot of trouble and has speed.
"He needs a couple of more chances, and if he gets them, he's going to bury them," Savard said.
During Savard's absence from the lineup, there have been many fans holding signs and wearing No. 91 sweaters in the stands at the Garden. When he steps onto the ice for Game 1, he'll receive a hero's welcome.
"Hopefully I get an ovation. That'll be nice," Savard said. "But I'm just looking forward to playing again and just being in the game. There's been so many things going on outside the game for me, so just to get back on the ice in a game is going to be special."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Coach Claude Julien says the Bruins will ease Marc Savard back into the lineup.