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Bruins oft-overlooked Savard grateful for all-star recognition

For all the points he has piled up in the last three seasons, Boston Bruins centre Marc Savard never seems to get a mention when NHL honours are discussed.

A year ago, he was in the top 10 in league scoring, but wasn't picked to play in the all-star game. This year, he was left off the original list again and it took an injury to Ottawa winger Dany Heatley for team selectors to name him to the Eastern Conference squad for the all-star game Jan. 27 in Atlanta.

"Last year I was upset a little bit," Savard said Wednesday during a conference call. "I was around seventh in scoring at the time and I thought for sure, especially coming off the year I had before, that I had a good chance to get in.

"But I guess it takes time. I'm glad I'm in this year. It should be a lot of fun."

It will be a first trip to the all-star game for the Ottawa native, who began to emerge as an offensive force even before the looser checking in the post-lockout era.

In 2005-06 with the Atlanta Thrashers - the year after the lockout - he had a career-high 97 points. He had 96 points last season, his first in Boston after signing a US$20 million four-year contract as an unrestricted free agent.

Savard's scoring pace is down slightly this season - he sits tied for 20th with 47 points - playing under first-year Bruins coach Claude Julien, who stresses defence and team play.

The 30-year-old isn't sure why he has not been an all-star before, or why his name is never mentioned for World Cup or Olympic teams, but he suspects it is due to that glaring blank spot on his record.

In his first nine NHL seasons, the teams Savard has played for - the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Atlanta and Boston - didn't make the playoffs.

And he has taken heat for being a one-dimensional offensive player, with a history of making risky passes and taking bad penalties.

"Obviously, making the playoffs is a huge thing," he said. "That's the next step I'd like to take.

"Our team is set up in a good position. We're a young, hard-working group and we play well defensively, so hopefully we get in the playoffs and we'll see what happens from there. I'd like to get some international recognition, for sure."

Savard seems to have found an ally in Julien, who is also from the Ottawa area.

When he was starring for the Oshawa Generals as a junior in mid-1990s, Savard attended the summer conditioning camps Julien ran before he became a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

When Julien joined the Bruins this season, he talked to Savard about being more involved in defensive play. The result is that he is plus-5 this season, after a minus-19 last season.

Julien even at times has had his first-line centre taking important defensive-zone faceoffs.

"I bought in right away," said Savard, whose team plays host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. "Being a leader on the team, it's helped everyone out.

"We have to realize this is what we have to do to win hockey games, and it's been successful. It's tough. As an offensive guy your whole career, you want to be on offence. But you have to realize that to win, you have to adapt. I owe a lot of the credit to Claude."

Savard also had kind words for a former coach - Bob Hartley.

Hartley coached Savard in Atlanta before and after the lockout, through seasons of 52 points in only 45 games in 2003-04 to his 97-point season after the lockout year.

"He called me in the first day and told me the ball's going to be in my court," Savard said of Hartley, who has since been let go by the Thrashers. "He said he'd give me the minutes to do it and I just had to go out and work hard.

"I give a lot of credit to him. He's a great person too. I'm sure he'll be back in the league some day."


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