Defenseman David Savard returns to Blue Jackets' lineup against DetroitFebruary 14, 2017 9:01pm

Feb. 11--David Savard crossed a mental hurdle in the past few days. He will attempt to scale another one tonight.

The Blue Jackets' defenseman, who's been dealing with back spasms for three weeks, returns to the lineup against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. Savard has missed eight of the last nine games. He attempted to come back against Nashville on Jan. 26 -- the last game before the All-Star break -- but couldn't get through the contest.

Savard was back in practice earlier in the week and skated hard on his own Friday. The blueliner said Thursday he thought he needed a full-contact practice to test the injury, but felt so good in recent days he decided to play.

"When I was skating I wasn't thinking about it and I could do everything," Savard said. "So that was a huge step mentally about knowing you can play without thinking about it. That was what we were waiting for and I feel good right now."

Savard, 26, is enjoying the best season of his six-year NHL career. He's been a stout defender and has formed a good partnership with Jack Johnson, who said recently he missed Savard "tremendously." Savard has two goals and 10 assists to go along with a team-leading plus-19 rating.

Now, the challenges becomes whether Savard can get through the game pain free. The past two times he's played the defenseman has had to stand up in the bench area because of the spasms.

"When I went back in against Nashville it wasn't the perfect situation but I thought I could get through the game," Savard said. "The last few days I've felt really good . . . I'm really excited to be back and go out there and have some fun and get a big win."

treed@dispatch.com

@treed1919

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