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August 24, 2005 - Primeau finally shakes concussion effects

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Primeau finally shakes concussion effects

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Courier-Post Staff

The post-concussion symptoms Flyers captain Keith Primeau endured throughout most of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs haunted him for an entire year and it was only recently that the 14-year veteran finally shook the cobwebs.

"Physically and mentally my body hasn't felt this good in a long time," Primeau said Tuesday, after a brisk workout at the Flyers Skate Zone. "For me (the NHL lockout) was somewhat of a blessing in that I still had those concussion symptoms for a long time, post-playoffs. Although I would have tried skating in camp last year, I probably wouldn't have been ready to go."

Primeau, 33, suffered a concussion on Feb. 12 in New York, when he was upended in an open-ice hit against the Rangers. He missed the next 21 games, but returned with a vengeance in the playoffs, leading the Flyers in goals (nine) and points (16).

He later admitted the adrenaline of the playoffs got him through the concussion symptoms and that he felt exercise-induced headaches through last summer and into last spring.

"It took a long time to subside," he said. "I would only say I've been symptom free in the last three or four months. It would have been an entire season (with concussion symptoms)."

Primeau said that since April he has begun increasing his workouts and now feels as strong as he's felt in years.

"I was at the gym five days a week," he said. "Strength-wise, I don't know if I've been stronger, but I'd rather be strong this time of year and have the next four or five weeks to build up my conditioning."

When training camp opens Sept. 19, Primeau could find himself fourth on the Flyers' depth chart at the center position, behind Peter Forsberg, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, although his role as the Flyers' top defensive center will not change.

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said Carter could begin his NHL career as a right wing on a line with Forsberg, much the same way Simon Gagne moved from center to left wing. And with Michal Handzus listed as a fifth center, the Flyers certainly have plenty of options.

Primeau was among those stunned by Clarke's willingness to dive head-first into the free-agent pool this summer, where he emerged with Forsberg and behemoth defensemen Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje in a span of two days.

"The one thing about Clarkie is he's always going to give us an opportunity," Primeau said. "For me, that was one of the biggest deciding factors when I re-signed (with a four-year deal). As a player, there's no better feeling than being a part of an organization or franchise that is willing to go that distance and give you a chance to win. He's done it again."

Primeau said fans may miss the irrepressible Jeremy Roenick, who has taken his act to Los Angeles, but they'll quickly recognize the all-around talent the Flyers have acquired in Forsberg, a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

"(Roenick) was always colorful and was always quotable and he'll be missed," Primeau said. "But at the same time we all know Peter's track record and what he brings to the table. As much as J.R. will be missed, Peter will replace that and bring a lot to the locker room."

Primeau took advantage of the long work stoppage by getting his hockey equipment company, Fury, off the production line and onto the streets. He said more than a dozen NHL players will be wearing his equipment this season and at least a handful of NHL players will be using his stick.

"We've really created a buzz in the retail and manufacturing industries," said Primeau, who will ring the opening bell at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange on Sept. 1. "We'll be visible."