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October 27, 2005 - Primeau urged to step up

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Primeau urged to step up

By WAYNE FISH
phillyBurbs.com

VOORHEES, N.J. - Don't think for a second that just because Keith Primeau took a nasty one to the jaw Tuesday night, coach Ken Hitchcock had any thoughts of going easy on his captain Wednesday.

In fact, the boss called a pow-wow in the morning, apparently to go over some leadership issues.

It seems the coach wants a little more out of his right-hand man, be that on the ice or off it.

Even though both men insisted the conversation centered around one-to-one stuff, it's clear Hitchcock is trying to send a message to his team that good (a 4-2-1 mark) isn't quite good enough.

The coach has watched his team give up games three times in the third period. Usually, that's about as many as a team lets go in an entire season.

From all accounts, this was different than one of Hitchcock's meetings with his leadership committee.

"It was more pointed," Primeau said. "More direct. He didn't really include anybody else. The conversation revolved around my role and my responsibility. It was directed at me. He was not questioning my work or my ethic, but challenging me."

No one was challenging Primeau much during the 2004 playoffs when he put on quite a show. His goal total that spring matched his previous amount for an entire 13-year career.

But this is a league of "what have you done for me lately." Primeau has just a goal and three assists so far.

"Granted, it's early in the season, but there's a level of play you have to get to and sustain consistently if you're going to be a championship team in this league," Primeau said. "That was his message to me."

Hitchcock did express concern for Primeau's well being. The concussion he sustained in 2003-04 didn't really clear until this past summer.

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"I was concerned for Keith," Hitchcock said. "Whenever I see Keith go down with an upper body hit, you're always concerned because of his experience with concussions. He felt great today. To be honest with you, he actually played harder after he got back up. He played nasty and hard."

Primeau said he feels OK to play in tonight's game against Florida.

"It didn't feel good, but surprisingly I feel good today," he said. "It's actually a positive to get hit that hard and feel good the next day."

The center didn't get the license number of that Canadien truck.

"I was a little more irritated after that," he said. "I got hammered. The puck was bouncing, I turned back to it and I hit a wall. It dazed me at first, but I was able to regroup and gather myself."

Speed overrated?

Hitchcock didn't want to give Montreal's speedy skaters too much credit for Tuesday night's overtime win.

And he doesn't believe the Flyers can't match most teams stride for stride.

"To me, skating speed is the most overrated aspect of the game," he said. "Montreal looks quick because they really move the puck well. The puck moves a lot faster than people skate.

"We played below the bar, that's the problem. We got outcompeted, and that doesn't make anybody around here very happy."