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February 28, 2006 - Flyers' Primeau to announce his season is finished

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Flyers' Primeau to announce his season is finished

By Rob Parent
Inquirer Staff Writer

Keith Primeau is expected to call an end to his season today, something the Flyers center delayed in recent weeks as he struggled to overcome lingering concussion symptoms.

General manager Bob Clarke did not want to comment directly yesterday about Primeau's announcement, but the Flyers announced an 11 a.m. news conference today "regarding his status for the remainder of the 2005-06 season" at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Camden County.

Clarke and Flyers chairman Ed Snider previously said Primeau would not be cleared by team doctors to play again this season.

So the team will not have to count about $2.5 million of Primeau's salary against the cap, since he won't be coming off injured reserve. Clarke is expected to make use of whatever salary-cap space he has by the March 9 trading deadline.

Primeau has experienced some headache problems and spinning sensations since Oct. 25, when Montreal Canadiens rookie Alexander Perezhogin leveled him with an elbow to the jaw. He played two more games and still experienced symptoms. Primeau has not played since Oct. 28.

He has continued to undergo treatment, but on the ice, he has not progressed past light skating. He did not return a telephone message yesterday afternoon.

In an interview last week, Primeau said he was having trouble accepting the fact that he had to shut it down for the season, but he planned to continue therapy in an effort to return by training camp in September.

"Keith is a tremendous asset to both the team and the coaching staff," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "A coach's job is to make players do what they don't want to do and have fun doing it. That's very hard to do. You have to find that person in the locker room that's able to understand that message. That was Keith. He made my job easier."

Defenseman Derian Hatcher has taken over Primeau's captaincy while the center recovers.

Probably the best example of Primeau's leadership skills was displayed in the Flyers' 2004 run to the Eastern Conference finals. Accepting his role as a checking-line center under Hitchcock, Primeau - a three-time 30-goal scorer - posted just seven goals and 22 points in 80 regular-season games.

But in 18 playoff games, he collected nine goals and 16 points, and was considered a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.

"That was a direct reflection of Keith accepting the mantle of being a leader," Hitchcock said. "He wanted to set an example every night. He wasn't only our hardest-working player, he became our best player.

"At the pace he's been [improving] lately, he's going to be back. He's got the color back in his face and jump back in his step."