TAMPA — Lightning defenseman David Savard knew this day was coming.
Playing against his old teammates and friends wasn’t something he could study or practice, he was just going to have to navigate through the emotions.
“I knew it was coming at some point,” Savard said ahead of Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets. “Sometimes I don’t know whether it’s better to push it back or do it right away.”
Savard, 30, spent 10 years in Columbus before being dealt to Tampa Bay on April 10 in a three-way deal, which also involved Detroit.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” Savard said. “I think (I’m) kind of excited at the same time to see them on the ice. ... It should be fun.”
He had spent his whole NHL career with the Blue Jackets, who drafted him in 2009. He played with AHL Springfield for three years before becoming a mainstay on the blue line for the Blue Jackets.
“I think it’s hard to put into words how (I’m) going to feel to see those guys, battling against these guys,” he said. “I’m just going to try to play intense. You can’t be playing like it’s a practice or something because (I) played for a long time with them. I’m just going to play as a normal game, but obviously the emotions are going to be high playing against old teammates.”
With the current COVID-19 protocols, Savard’s only interaction with his former teammates has been via phone and, after Thursday’s game, on the ice. He can’t hang out with them to catch up the way one normally would.
“It would be nice to have dinner with those guys,” he said. “(I’ve) spent so many years with them. We’ve been texting since I got traded. You care about those guys still, and we have conversations here and there, maybe not as much as when we were on the same team, but we’ve stayed in contact and obviously we talked to each other (Wednesday).”
In Thursday’s 3-1 win, Savard played 21:25, the second-most time on the ice for the Lightning behind Victor Hedman (24:14). He also had one shot on goal and four hits. Savard has yet to register his first point with the Lightning in five games.
“It is what it is, and it’s part of the business,” Savard said. “It’s the part that’s not fun about the business, moving and stuff like this, but I’m obviously really excited to be here and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
As for how his former teammates feel: “I think they’re excited for me to be here, and they know how good this team is. I think they wish me nothing but the best.”
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