Savard doesn't rule out early return

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After skating on his own Thursday, Bruins center Marc Savard said he was targeting the Jan. 29 game in Buffalo for a return to the lineup. After practice Friday, however, he wouldn't rule out an earlier return.

"I don't know. We haven't talked about it," Savard said in the Ristuccia Arena dressing room when asked if he could make a comeback from his slight MCL tear as early as this weekend. "We'll see; we'll talk about it. Right now, it's still next Friday. But I don't know."

The reason for even the slightest hope of an earlier return was that Savard skated on his own before his teammates took the ice and then joined them for their entire practice Friday.

"I felt great today. I was only going to go out for a bit and ended up staying the whole way," said Savard, who has been out of action since Jan. 7. "I felt great skating before, so everything felt good and right now I feel fine."

The original prognosis was three to four weeks before a return, which made Jan. 29 the most realistic option.

Boston will be without injured forwards Marco Sturm, Steve Begin and Byron Bitz for Saturday's game against Ottawa, according to coach Claude Julien. The trio is also questionable for Sunday night's game in Carolina.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com