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December 30, 2005 - Primeau running out of time

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Primeau running out of time


By WAYNE FISH
Bucks County Courier Times

RALEIGH, N.C. - Call it a race against time.

Even though both Keith Primeau and the Flyers have exercised remarkable patience with the captain's battle through a concussion, there may come a point where the team has to move on for its own best interests.

If Primeau, who has been sidelined since Oct. 30, doesn't return by the Olympic break in February, the Flyers might have a decision to make.

Like whether to go after a dominant checking center to fill Primeau's significantly large skates down the stretch and into the playoffs.

For the better part of a month, the news has been encouraging. Primeau has been working with doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in an attempt to solve lingering problems with his balance.

He's been reporting improvement, but there is still no timetable for a return or even a schedule for getting a neuro-psychological examination.

In the meantime, the Flyers may have to begin a search for replacement. That might require taking what is left of his contract for this year (he makes about $4 million per year) off the payroll because the Flyers are close to hitting the salary cap ceiling of $39 million.

The Flyers are somewhat optimistic about Primeau's latest progress. He's been receiving medication the past couple weeks that is aimed at reducing his dizzy spells.

"We're encouraged because his symptoms aren't lasting as long," head trainer Jim McCrossin said Thursday. "I spoke with him [Wednesday]. He's skating and doing imbalance rehab at HUP. He's still getting dizzy spells, but they aren't lasting nearly as long as they have.

"He said he's fighting now to see if he can't make his eyes unfocus. He said before he was fighting to focus them. It's not a big battle anymore to keep his concentration."

General manager Bob Clarke sounded upbeat when he talked about Primeau's status. According to Clarke, the key is how Primeau reacts after hard workouts.

"He's been training and skating for 45 minutes," Clarke said. "He's been lifting weights and everything. He's had some spinning after that, but even though it's happening, he said they're getting shorter all the time. So he feels like he's getting better."

Primeau missed 21 games after his Feb. 12, 2004 concussion. Thursday night he missed his 28th game for the latest one. Perhaps the extended time off will allow him to turn a corner.

"I'm more encouraged than ever," Clarke said.

Asked if he expects to see Primeau play again this season, Clarke said, "Yes, I do now."

McCrossin feels the same way.

"There's no way you can count him out," he said. "I'm not going to count him out."