WILMINGTON, Mass. — Marc Savard continues to make strides in his recovery from post-concussion symptoms and his return date is drawing close.
But even with fellow center David Krejci sidelined with the flu, Savard and the Bruins have resisted any temptations to expedite his return and rush back into the lineup on Sunday.
"I won't be playing tomorrow, I know that," said Savard after practicing with the team Saturday at Ristuccia Arena. "I know I won't be playing tomorrow, but hopefully soon.
"I'm getting anxious and just like you say, Krejci's sick so I'm like 'Oh, man,'" added Savard. "But I've got to be patient. I've got to make sure I can jump in and contribute. I don't want to jump in and take a while to get my feet wet. I want to be able to jump in and play and contribute, so I have to wait and be ready."
The Bruins also want to make sure that Savard is ready to play a regular shift and help the team before inserting him back in the lineup.
"You certainly don't want to bring a guy in who's going to struggle keeping up because it's not a positive for the team and it's not a positive for him," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "That's what happens when guys are out for a long time. The minute they get cleared, people want them to come back right away, and so do they. But you've got to make the right decision."
Still, the return date is getting close, with the calendar poised to turn to December next week. And the Bruins hope to have Savard back sometime during that month.
"We talked about in December," said Julien. "And from December on, who knows? I think it will depend on a lot of things and the bottom line is when he comes in he's going to have to be able to keep up and be at par."
Savard also sees the end in sight, with the month of December beckoning as the target for his return, though he still is not certain exactly when in December.
"I'm pretty much where I expected I'd be, and I'm getting closer," said Savard. "We've talked about sometime in December. Whether that's early December, middle, I'm not sure. But every day I'm getting closer, doing more drills, getting to work on battles. I'm just having fun and enjoying every day."
Savard was cleared for contact after passing a battery of tests in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He participated fully in the club's morning skate in Florida on Wednesday, and was back out on the ice with the club for practice on Saturday.
"It felt really good to be out there with the guys," said Savard. "I was really surprised actually. The only thing was when Claude mentioned one drill it took me a couple watches before I got it right. But besides that I felt great and had a lot of fun."
It wasn't all fun, as Savard also stayed out on the ice after practice for some battle drills with defenseman Adam McQuaid. That provided Savard with a chance at some real contact, and he was happy to test himself with some hitting.
"I'm not worried about it," said Savard. "I'd like to go looking for it first maybe, not that I hit a lot, but maybe that's something I'd like to test out. Quaider's caught me a couple times in practice there and [Wednesday] he got me with an elbow to the chin. He's pushed me hard, but still, nothing's like games and I can't wait for that day."
McQuaid didn't intend to give Savard such a forceful test.
"I guess I got him the last time we were battling," said McQuaid. "I didn't mean to, but I guess it was a good test for him. … Immediately after he said I got him with an elbow there, but he said 'I feel good, I feel good.' So I was glad he said he felt good, otherwise I'd be feeling pretty bad."
Instead, the Bruins are feeling good about the prospect of having Savard back soon. To that end, McQuaid was happy to put in some extra work after practice to help get him ready.
"We just want to see him get back as soon as possible," said McQuaid. "So whatever you can do to help you do. … I think he looks good. He says he feels good and he's in good spirits. We're anxious to get him back. He'll be a big help for the team."