After spending his entire 10-year NHL career with one team, new Lightning defenseman David Savard is going to take more than a couple of days to get used to his new surroundings.
Savard, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday in a three-team trade, began learning a new system and a new group of teammates in his first Lightning practice Monday before making his Tampa Bay debut Tuesday against the Predators in Nashville.
“It was a little weird walking in,” Savard said. “It felt like it was my first year again or something. You just try to see everybody and say hi, but they have a great group of guys here. I knew a few guys already, so they made it really easy on me.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said it’s important to not overload Savard with too much as he gets adjusted. Even though he spent his entire career with the Blue Jackets, Savard is a veteran, Cooper said, so he could adapt quickly.
“The big thing is to clear the mind and tell him there’s no way they’re going to know everything in one day,” Cooper said. “Even when you talk about systems and you think our system is much different from Columbus, but a lot of it’s the same. So we’re not worried in that regard.”
Savard’s debut in the Lightning’s 7-2 loss to the Predators Tuesday in Nashville was a rough one. He was left on his own defending a pair of two-on-one breaks that led to Predators goals in the first period, then another later in the game.
It might take some time for Savard to get adjusted to playing with Victor Hedman, who has much more freedom to roam than most defensemen, and that was clear in Tuesday’s debut. Savard finished minus-4.
“Victor is a 200-foot defenseman, and he helps create a lot of offense for us,” Cooper said. “To have somebody back there that’s reliable can be a good complement. It doesn’t always work that way, but we have to start him somewhere. So, for us, it seems like a pretty logical place to put him and see what happens.”
While with Columbus, Savard played numerous times against Hedman, who leads the Lightning with 37 points in 41 games. He’s looking forward to working with the former Norris Trophy winner.
“He’s an elite defenseman in the league,” Savard said Monday. “It was fun to be practicing with him, and the way he skates, the way he moves the puck and everything, he’s dominant out there. I’m sure he’s going to make my life really easy.”
Meanwhile, younger defenseman like Mikhail Sergachev are looking forward to learning from Savard, who ranks fifth in the league in blocked shots (89).
“It’s huge,” Sergachev said. “You watch him play, he’s very smart, too. He’s always in a great position. He blocks shots. He shuts down players that are very hard to shut down, so I’m very happy and I feel like I can learn a lot from him.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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