By CHUCK GORMLEY
Keith Primeau still is experiencing post-concussion symptoms and is uncertain when he will return to the lineup as the Flyers' captain, but he is not contemplating retirement, he told the Courier-Post on Monday.
Informed there were widespread rumors he was considering walking away from a 15-year career in the NHL, Primeau responded with a laugh.
"That's news to me," he said.
Sidelined with concussion symptoms since he removed himself from the lineup on Oct. 28, Primeau said he has not allowed the thought of retirement to enter his mind, even though he is aware the next big hit he receives could be his last.
"I don't want those thoughts in my head," he said. Primeau has a wife, Lisa, and four children and said he understands the risks that are involved with returning to a sport in which violent collisions are as common as slapshots.
"Lisa knows what playing is worth to me," he said. "She knows that as strongly as she feels one way, I feel just as strongly the other way."
In June 2004, the Flyers signed Primeau to a four-year, $17 million contract. Because of the NHL lockout and a 24 percent rollback on salaries, that contract has been whittled to three years and is now worth $9.5 million. Primeau is scheduled to earn $3.42 million this season and $3.04 million in each of the next two seasons.
However, a sixth documented concussion sustained Oct. 25 in Montreal is threatening to place Primeau on a growing list of players who've been forced to retire prematurely.
One of the most famous cases is former Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom, who was forced to retire in 1999 at the age of 33. Beukeboom still suffers from post-concussion syndrome.
"I think that's something everybody wants to guard against," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "There is life after hockey.
"For years (Beukeboom) couldn't handle sounds or noises, he couldn't be in the kitchen when his wife was cooking. That's heart-wrenching when you see players can't function on a daily basis even after they're finished playing."
Primeau is three weeks removed from taking a shoulder to the chin from Canadiens rookie Alexander Perezhogin.
"I think it's starting to sort itself out," he said. "One hour I feel great and the next hour I feel terrible. Three weeks ago it was consistent: I didn't have relief all day long."
He began cranial sacral therapy last week, and after four sessions, he said, it has relieved many of his symptoms.
Primeau said many of his current symptoms are similar to the ones he experienced for more than a year after returning from a concussion late in the 2003-04 season.
When asked if he might simply shut himself down until January or February, Primeau said his focus is more short-term.
"I wish I could afford myself that luxury," he said. "I know how long it took last time, but I keep telling myself that if I can get through one or two days without headaches, I'll get back on the bike and take it from there."
Loose pucks: Flyers right wing Turner Stevenson said he is progressing better than expected from Oct. 18 surgery to repair his right hip and could be in the lineup as early as Saturday night when the Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Stevenson, 33, plans on skating with the team this week, and if he is not cleared to play on Saturday, he said he'll make his return a week from tonight when Tampa Bay makes its first visit to Philadelphia.