Marc Savard, out since March 7 with a Grade 2 concussion, skated for the second straight day on Tuesday morning and then passed his neuro-psych and exertion tests, clearing him to practice with the team.
The plan is to practice Wednesday and Thursday and then meet with his physician to determine if he can play in a game. Sources told NESN.com early on Tuesday night that the team’s leading scorer for the last two seasons is actually aiming for a Game 5 return on Friday.
But no matter when he returns, he will bring about an instant impact on and off the ice — the latter of which has already been evident in the team’s reaction to his presence around the rink the last two days.
But what exactly does Savard’s return mean for the Bruins? Obviously, it’s a positive, but with the team clicking on all cylinders in his absence, where does head coach Claude Julien fit Savard back into the lineup? Does Julien throw him right back into the fire, essentially pushing another player out of the lineup? Or does he slowly phase Savard into things — maybe using him mainly on the power play and penalty kill — with limited playing time otherwise?
“Obviously, it’s going to come down to the coach as well — if things are going well, when do you put him in, when’s the right time to do it?” said veteran forward Mark Recchi on WEEI on Tuesday. “Obviously, he’s a tremendous player, and it would be a big boost getting him back.”
If the Bruins take a commanding 3-1 lead in this series, there is obviously less of an immediate need to get Savard back in the lineup. But if the series is tied heading back to Buffalo, and Savard has a green light, there is a very strong possibility Savard is in the lineup at HSBC Arena on Friday for Game 5.
It is obvious, just given the fact that Savard skating again, that this team is excited and in a better mental state than it’s been in since March 7. Savard will obviously help what is still a starving offense. The Boston power play, which has only connected once in eight tries in this series and was anemic in the regular season, would benefit as well.
“He just gives the opponent so much more to worry about,” forward Milan Lucic said. “That frees up the rest of us on the ice with him, and that’s huge in the playoffs because there’s not much space out there.”
Savard is a dynamic and an elite player, so nothing bad can really come from his return; it’s just a question of when and how Julien utilizes him. Having that kind of scoring option in his pocket puts Julien, and the Bruins, in a great position. After the frustrating regular season they battled through, if anyone told the Bruins that they would be sitting in this position right now, they probably would have laughed it off.
But here they are with a chance to take a giant step closer to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs — and on the verge of getting their best offensive weapon back.