WILMINGTON, Mass. - A spirited practice was over. Most of the Boston Bruins were back in the locker room.

But not Marc Savard.

With his return from a 24-game absence just days away, Boston's best playmaker kept working on the ice with a few teammates yesterday.

"It felt like the Boston Marathon," said Savard, sidelined more than 7 weeks following a Grade 2 concussion. "They made it pretty tough today, but I got through it.

"I gave everything I had. So it was a good test."

His next challenge comes Saturday in the opening game of the second round of the playoffs in which the sixth-seeded Bruins will have home-ice advantage against the seventh-seeded Flyers.

The matchup was determined when eighth-seeded Montreal beat top-seeded Washington, 2-1, last night in Game 7. If Washington had won, Boston would have faced fourth-seeded Pittsburgh, the team Savard was hurt against when he absorbed a blindside hit from Matt Cooke.

But after yesterday's practice, Savard said, "I'm feeling great."

At the time, he didn't know the opponent or the date of the next game. But he did know how he wants to play his first few shifts - make contact, not avoid it.

"I'm not a guy that hits a lot but [I'll] try and get a couple of bumps in early and test myself that way so I'm tested and I feel involved," he said.

Savard isn't backing off after dealing with three injuries that caused him to miss half the regular season - 15 games with a broken left foot, eight with a partially torn ligament in his right knee and 18 games (plus six in the playoffs) with the concussion.

But he's been cleared by doctors to play, even if his ice time might be less than usual.

"His conditioning is as good as it can be at this time," coach Claude Julien said.