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November 28, 2005 - Primeau injury concerns Clarke

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Primeau injury concerns Clarke

Knight Ridder Newspapers

The frustration has reached epic proportions at the Primeau household. Lisa Primeau is not used to having her husband at home for five weeks while the Flyers are playing.

"She wants me out of the house," Keith Primeau said Monday. "I'm doing a whole lot of nothing at home. I've run out of things to do."

Primeau has not played since Oct. 28 because of a concussion. Monday morning, while he worked out on a stationary bike at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, general manager Bob Clarke, whose office is next door, sat and wondered: When will his team captain get back on the ice?

"Yeah, I'm worried," Clarke admitted. "It's the strangest injury. Like I said to him, `You do an MRI and does it show anything? No.' Other players, like (Boyd) Devereaux, were told to retire. He came back and played and hasn't had a concussion since.

"Other guys get concussions and have all sorts of problems. There are no answers. Not for Keith. Not for us."

You hear the chatter in every NHL city from players on opposing teams. Primeau is done. He's not coming back this season.

Primeau hears people say he's done for the year and it makes him angry.

"It's really frustrating for me to hear that," he said. "One, I want to play. Second, I am now sensing everyone else's frustration around me. Everyone is giving me their full support. They want me to come back.

"They are frustrated because no one can fix this. And that weighs on me. I really feel as though I have let everyone down. I have every anticipation of coming back this season. I just don't have a date. It's total speculation when people say I'm not coming back."

Primeau admitted during an NHL conference call in August that he had been having post-concussion symptoms as late as May from injuries suffered in the 2004 playoffs.

"People think I'm finished," Primeau said. "I don't know what the future holds. But my whole intent is to play."

Clarke said if the medical staff told him tomorrow that Primeau wasn't coming back this season, he would have to prepare to make a trade for another center.

"Somewhere along the line we'd have to do it," Clarke said. "Not now. We've been fortunate that (Peter) Forsberg and (Simon) Gagne and some of the kids have been so good."

But to deal for another center, Clarke would have to wait until it got closer to the March 9 trade deadline, when teams that were out of contention would be willing to move a No. 1 or No. 2 center. Also, cap space would take time to clear. Their payroll is at $38,828,690, just under the $39 million limit.

"I think we've been a pretty competitive team without Keith, but we're a better team with him," Clarke said. "Like a lot of teams, depth is a problem. No one has a lot of depth right now.

"It would be hard for us to upgrade because of what it would cost us against the cap. If we got to the trade deadline ... yeah, we could do it. But until teams feel they're not going to make the playoffs, they are not going to trade a center."

For now, Clarke said, he is operating on the assumption that Primeau will play again this season.

"With this type of injury, no one can tell you anything," Clarke said. "Initially, when it happened, we figured he'd miss two, three weeks and rest up. But it never got better. We just don't know."

Trainer Jim McCrossin said that Primeau has had a series of days where he was symptom-free for 20 to 22 hours but has had only 3 1/2 "good days," when the time between his non-concussive symptoms has increased.

But the reality is, Primeau is far from healthy, which means he is far from returning to the Flyers.

"That is a fair assessment," Primeau said. "I do feel better, but yes, I continue to have recurring symptoms. Not as severe, but yes, they are prevalent."

Primeau rode the bike for 30 minutes Monday without symptoms. McCrossin won't allow him to undergo neurological testing until he's been symptom-free for 48 continuous hours. No one knows when that day will come.

"It may still take a while before he gets back," Clarke said.