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Promising first steps on long road back for Savard and Bouchard

There were encouraging signs in Marc Savard's long-awaited return to action with the Bruins on Thursday night. (Elsa/Getty Images)


By Stu Hackel

Two long term concussion victims have returned to action in recent days. On Thursday, Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins played his first game after suffering a recurrence of post-concussion syndrome during the offseason. Savard admitted that he had returned too soon from the head check inflicted by the Penguins' Matt Cooke on Mar. 7 last season. That blow was a catalyst for the NHL's Rule 48 on blindside and lateral hits to the head. Savard came back for last spring's second round playoff series against the Flyers (and even scored the winnng goal in Game 1), but he wore down as the series went on and experienced problems over the summer.

In his first game back, Savard played 15:45 in the Bruins’ 8-1 crushing of Tampa Bay. “To me, it didn’t look like he’s missed a beat. His hands were still there, his skating was very good," said B's coach Claude Julien (quoted in The Boston Herald). "He looked like a guy who was in really good shape and had good stamina. I liked his game from start to finish.”

Pierre-Marc Bouchard received a similiar appraisal from his coach after his first game back in the Minnesota Wild's lineup. Bouchard took a hit to the head during a game in March 2009 and also came back too soon. After playing in last season's opener, he was forced to sit out all of the 2009-10 campaign and the start to this one. His absence has spanned 112 of the last 113 games, but he finally returned to the ice on Wednesday night against the Coyotes and his performance (minus-2, with one shot, in 14:04 of icetime) earned the praise of Todd Richards, who said, "He's able to buy time and make plays. And once he becomes more confident, more comfortable, he'll help us five on five and he'll certainly help us on the power play."

However, The St. Paul Pioneer Press's Tom Powers commented, "Whoa, slow down. That was just one small step. I thought Bouchard was OK, about what you'd expect from someone coming back from such a long layoff. My eyes didn't pop out of my head or anything. That's because I know what Bouchard can really do. Richards doesn't. That was just the second game he'd ever seen him play.

"...When he's his normal self, Bouchard can motor. And his speed can cause an entire defense to back up. That's one of his great attributes, and Richards hasn't seen it yet."