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October 31, 2005 - Primeau could have concussion

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Primeau could have concussion


OTTAWA - "It's not good." Given his history of head injuries, Keith Primeau said a lot with those three words Sunday.

The Flyers captain disclosed he hasn't been himself since a train-wreck hit to the jaw from an elbow by Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin last Tuesday night.

Although he managed to make it through games against Florida on Thursday and at Carolina on Friday, Primeau knew something wasn't right.

Sunday, the concussion-like symptoms reached the point where he had to call head trainer Jim McCrossin.

Primeau was pulled from Sunday night's game against the Senators and is scheduled to be re-evaluated by a neurologist in Philadelphia today.

This situation is nothing new to Primeau. It took him until this past July to completely get over the symptoms of a concussion he suffered on Feb. 12, 2004, when he was struck by Bobby Holik in a game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Primeau missed 21 games due to that injury, but came back to play the last three regular-season games, then enjoyed the best playoff season of his career.

Now there is concern that he might have another concussion that could cost him a substantial amount of playing time again.

"I have been feeling lethargic the last couple of days, and it has progressively gotten worse," Primeau said. "I called Jim McCrossin this morning, so he got me down here [to the Corel Centre] and I had [massage therapist] Brad [Smith] work on my neck and shoulder to see if that would alleviate some of it."

Primeau says he's experiencing the same discomfort he did after the Holik hit.

"It's a lot of similar symptoms as last time," he said. "I have headaches and pressure, and just don't feel right. I feel lethargic."

The 33-year-old center, who has one goal and six assists in nine games, tried to play through the symptoms because he speculated it might just be a conditioning issue.

"It's been a few days, and I tried to get through because I thought it was just more getting back to playing after missing a year," he said. "I thought I was just maybe dragging a little bit, but it was deteriorating and not getting better."

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Without saying the "concussion" word, coach Ken Hitchcock made it fairly clear that he believes that's what Primeau is suffering from right now.

"I think where he stands is pretty obvious," Hitchcock said. "The effects of the hit came back a little bit after the game in Carolina, he didn't feel right towards the end of the game.

"We're just not, with the history and last 24 months with Keith, we're just not prepared to take any chances. We'll take him back to Philadelphia and have a further evaluation. I don't think it's too bad; he's in a situation where with the history we're just not prepared to take any risks."

In Primeau's absence, the Flyers called up 23-year-old center R.J. Umberger from the Phantoms. He led the Phantoms in scoring last year and has 10 points in eight games this season.

"R.J. is going to come up, and we're excited," Hitchcock said. "He was arguably one of the best forwards in training camp through exhibition season, so we're excited to give R.J. a real go here."

Umberger's parents were going to fly in from Pittsburgh on Sunday to watch their son play his first NHL game but couldn't get a flight. They settled for watching it on TV.

"This gives us a chance to look at the future of our organization," Hitchcock said. "With [Mike] Richards, [Jeff] Carter and Umberger down the middle we get a real good look of where we're going to be at."

Umberger flew in from Springfield, Mass., where the Phantoms were playing.

"I'm sure my adrenaline will get me through this one," he said just before the game. "I've been following them (the Flyers), not wanting anyone to get hurt but waiting for the opportunity. I'm excited to play."

And he could be around a while if Primeau gets a bad diagnosis today.

Simon Gagne said, "Other guys are going to have to step up, Peter [Forsberg], myself. That's the way it goes right now."