Savard feels no ill effects in his return

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Savard feels no ill effects in his return

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was his first shift since last May, and Marc Savard had water in his eyes.

He wasn't crying, of course. It was his own sweat that had dripped down from his helmet, clouding his vision and causing him to jump the gun early on his very first faceoff of the season, prompting the referee to boot him from the draw.

The TD Garden crowd didn't like it one bit and they made sure they were heard from, with boos ringing down from the bleachers.

But nobody was truly upset on Thursday night. The Bruins trounced the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1, and Savard, who is arguably the team's top-line centerman when completely healthy, was back on the ice.

Savard, who has recovered from post-concussion syndrome, saw 15:45 of ice time in the win. To put that into perspective, center David Krejci had 16:40 and Patrice Bergeron 15:58.

Savard and Bergeron were the only two Bruins to finish the win with both an even plusminus rating and zero points, but Thursday night wasn't about what Savard would finish with on the score sheet. It was about taking the next big step in his recovery from a concussion that he suffered last March.

"I mean, it's been six months, so it's been a long time," said Savard after the game. "I was shaking off a bit of rust, but I felt like I made some good plays. I felt like there's stuff I can build off of, some things I can work on still, obviously. On battles, I had a little trouble as the shift wore on in our own zone a couple times. But I felt good, I felt strong. I got in there a couple times, tried to bang around, didn't really move anybody, but it was a lot of fun tonight.

"It's been a long road, that's for sure, and I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people, and I've said that before," added Savard. "Everybody who's helped me out along the way, they don't understand how much they've helped me. The fans, too. Just tonight, to top it all off, they were wonderful, and that was one of the reasons I chose to stay here, and hopefully we can reward the fans back with a long playoff run."

Savard first found out he was playing in a meeting with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien after Thursday's morning skate.

"I was told that everybody seemed positive about him, and OK with him playing," said Julien. "I think it was important to have everybody on board."

"I felt no effects tonight," said Savard, who believes everything was handled "perfectly" during his recovery. "Everything was great. Obviously, like I said, the longer shifts I got a little tired, but I really enjoyed myself tonight. I had a smile on the bench, had a lot of fun.

"I obviously didn't sleep much today," he added. "I tried not to walk around the room when I got here, but I felt like I was just flying around the room, kind of burning energy that I didn't want to burn, but I was just so excited. I felt like a little kid again. It was great."

He also felt like he was playing with a former linemate, and he wasn't talking about Michael Ryder. Ryder was on Savard's wing, but so was rookie Tyler Seguin, and Savard felt an immediate connection with the top draft pick.

Savard compared Seguin to former Bruin Phil Kessel . . . the same Kessel whose trade to Toronto opened the door for Seguin's arrival in Boston.

Needless to say, he liked what he saw.

"I can use his speed," said Savard. "He kind of reminds me of Phil over there, with his speed, so once I get used to it a bit, playing together . . .

"Like I said, I was a little rusty, a couple passes I got in the middle that I wish I would have got over there, but same sense, I feel like I made some good plays. My hands felt fine. My head felt fine. Obviously, just stamina, being out there for 45 seconds, I just have to work on that a bit."

Julien said Savard didn't look like he missed a beat on Thursday. He saw a player whose hands were still there, and whose skating was strong. And there was also one more thing that returned to the Bruins' bench: his mouth.

"He usually leads the way, when it comes to chirping," said Julien. "So he's good on the bench. He really is. He talks a lot, and I know, that when he comes to the bench, and anybody who's played on his line will tell you, he's always talking about different plays . . . that's what makes him such a good playmaker. He does talk a lot on the bench, and that's what you want. You want guys that are in the game, whether they're on the ice, or on the bench."

Savard got his first game out of the way. He still has some things to work on, nobody's denying that. But everyone's happy he's working on those things while helping them win, even if it doesn't show up on the score sheet.

"He is a big playmaker," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the win. "He can make things happen on the rushes. He can find people and give the puck to them. Obviously, on the power play, he sees the puck very well. He brings a lot of patience and is an offensive threat to the other team. You always have to be aware of him. You never know what you are going to get. Sometimes it is a beautiful pass, and sometimes it is a great play. It sure is nice to have him back."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

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Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

It’s only a coincidence that it will air the same week that the Boston Bruins went Hollywood with their annual three-game road trip through California, but David Backes and his wife Kelly are going to get some solid TV time this weekend. The animal-loving couple are going to be featured Saturday night in the all-new Animal Planet special "Stars to the Rescue," which highlights the Backes family’s excellent work to ensure every animal has a ‘furever’ home.

The lifelong animal lovers have adopted five rescue pets that all made the move from St. Louis to Boston this summer, and launched Athletes for Animals in 2013, a non-profit organization supporting professional athletes and animal advocacy efforts. The 32-year-old Backes chose a Boston animal shelter as his first setting to meet with the Boston media this summer after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and spoke glowingly about his inspiration for marrying two of his passions: helping animals and sports.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," said Backes, the proud owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty and Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly). "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said, ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

The “Stars to the Rescue” special premieres on Saturday night at 8 pm on Animal Planet where there will be a full segment on the Backes family, but here’s a clip where Backes talks about his well-publicized involvement with a number of stray dog rescues during his 2014 Olympic Hockey stint with Team USA in Sochi, Russia.

Backes isn’t the only Boston athlete featured during the Animal Planet special as it also chronicles the stories of other well-known athletes and celebrities and the dogs they can't live without: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, Selma Blair, ESPN Correspondent Michelle Beadle, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more. From training buddies to comforting companions, “Stars to the Rescue” shows first-hand how these celebrities first met their cute rescued canines and how their dogs have impacted and transformed their lives for the better.

What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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