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April 16, 2001 - Primeau's status will be game-time decision

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Primeau's status will be game-time decision
 
Center Keith Primeau, who led Philadelphia with 34 regular-season goals, is ready to return after missing three weeks with a sprained left knee. Trailing by two games in the playoffs, the Flyers could use the help.

New LeClair offer? After the Flyers' practice Sunday, team president Bob Clarke said John LeClair's agent, Lewis Gross, is preparing a contract offer after the two spoke last week.

LeClair is in the final year of his contract, eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has not been happy with negotiations.

Asked if he's optimistic, Clarke said: "I haven't seen what (Gross) has put down yet." – The Associated Press

A final decision won't come until team doctors see how the knee responds following Primeau's first full practice Sunday. If cleared, Primeau could play as soon as Monday, when the Flyers play Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres.

Philadelphia trails the best-of-seven series 2-0 and could use its premier center back in action.

"If you ask me, I'm pretty darn close to 100 percent," Primeau said. "But that's just my mind over my body. I'll wait to get assessed by the doctors."

Primeau lasted the entire 30-minute practice the Flyers held in Buffalo. Along with taking slap shots with an emphasis of putting added weight on his left leg, Primeau spent time battling for pucks in the corner with teammate Todd Fedoruk.

Primeau experienced some discomfort but said it was a marked improvement from when he was first cleared to skate on his own last week.

"For me there was urgency from Day 1, from Game 1," said Primeau. "You want to be playing, and that's where it's at for me. I want to be out there. I want to be a part of it. It's such a wonderful time of the year."

Team doctors will decide if Keith Primeau will play in Game 3 after observing how his knee responds to his Sunday practice.

Primeau sustained the injury when he crashed into the end boards against Ottawa on March 26. He missed the final six games of the season and the first two games of the playoffs.

The Flyers are cautiously optimistic on Primeau's return.

"When you get a guy like that back, it's a huge lift for your hockey club," right wing Mark Recchi said. "When you get a guy who's a 30-goal scorer, who takes all your big draws, who plays physical every night, it's a big difference."

Coach Bill Barber cautioned the team not to place too much emphasis on Primeau's potential return.

"We've got to be careful how we go at this," Barber said. "If Keith's able to play, we welcome that. ... But we can't put all the stuff on Keith and say, 'This is going to be the difference in this series: Keith Primeau's returned.'

"I refuse to put that much pressure on him."

The Flyers need some type of jolt.

They had trouble generating scoring opportunities in losing the series opener 2-1 last Wednesday. In Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss, the Flyers managed more scoring chances but squandered a 3-2 third-period lead.

The Sabres are aware of the possibility of Primeau's return.

"We'll be ready for him," Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek said. "I don't know how healthy he is, but probably he will give them some lift and mental lift in the locker room because he's one of their leaders."

Much of the pressure will fall on the Sabres' checking line, centered by Curtis Brown.

"The facts are the facts, he's their top scorer and one of their best players. Obviously, he's going to help them a lot," Brown said. "But at the end of the day, we just have to focus on our job. ... You can't get caught up with what the other guys are doing."