By CHUCK GORMLEY
Special to the News Journal
VOORHEES, N.J. -- During Wednesday night's hyped-up pregame introductions before the Flyers' season opener
against the New York Rangers, only one player received a reception that rivaled the one given Peter Forsberg.
When Keith Primeau stepped on the ice, the theme from "Superman" blared from the speakers and the crowd, recognizing
his performance in the 2004 playoffs, greeted the Flyers' captain with a thunderous ovation.
Then they watched him sit on the bench for 48 1/2 minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Rangers.
"I was frustrated going home [Wednesday] night because I want to lead," Primeau said. "And the way for me
to lead is to go out and make contact and create momentum. I wasn't able to do that."
When Primeau last played for the Flyers in 2003-04, he averaged about 17 minutes of ice time and even more
in the playoffs, when he led the club in goals (nine) and points (16).
With the arrival of Forsberg and rookie Mike Richards, Primeau's role is strictly as a checking-line center.
He is not on either power-play unit, and on Wednesday he saw just 11:30 of ice time. Forsberg logged 21 minutes, Richards
saw 20 minutes and center Michal Handzus received 15:22.
The biggest reason for the disparity was the Flyers' advantage in penalties. They were awarded 10 power plays
to the Rangers' four, and during one stretch of the second period Primeau waited eight minutes to take a shift.
"Hitch would call my name [for a line change] and then a power play would happen," Primeau said. "One time
on the bench I said to [linemate] Donald Brashear, 'Can we decline?' Hitch didn't realize until the game was over that I played
11 minutes. Actually, it bothers him more than it bothers me. I was more disappointed with the way I played."
Primeau managed one first-period shot and two hits, and was on the ice for two of the Rangers' five goals.
Hitchcock said if the penalties were reversed, Primeau would have played 21 minutes and perhaps Forsberg,
Richards or Handzus would have played 11 minutes.
"That's abnormal," Hitchcock said of the 10-4 advantage in power plays. "We're going to take more than four
penalties a game, and he's going to play against the other team's best player [at even strength]."
Of course, there is also the possibility that with their talent level the Flyers will draw a lot more penalties
than they take.
Primeau said he has taken that into consideration, and it concerns him that his ice time could be significantly
But after one game, Primeau is not about to question Hitchcock's plan for him, although the two had an animated
discussion after Thursday's practice.
"I think that's where I've matured the most," Primeau said. "I just do what the coach asks. If he wants me
to sit on the bench and cheer for 60 minutes, I'll cheer for 60 minutes. If he wants me to go out and play for 60 minutes,
I'll play 60 minutes.
"He's the coach and I'm the player. The only way our locker room can work is to accept our roles. If I accept
what Hitch is asking, it gives nobody else an excuse not to accept what they're dealt."