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March 1, 2006 - Primeau to sit out rest of season

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Primeau to sit out rest of season

By Dan Gelston
Of The Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. | Keith Primeau promised his wife he wouldn't break down while talking about the premature end of his season because of lingering symptoms from a concussion four months ago.

He had good reason to keep his word. His wife, Lisa, threatened to come into the news conference from a nearby room and smack him on the head if he became too emotional.

''That's probably not what I can use right now,'' Primeau said Tuesday, cracking a brief smile.

Primeau won't be taking any whacks to the head on the ice any time soon. The Philadelphia Flyers captain is done for the season, still feeling the effects of an Oct. 25 hit from Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin, the latest and most severe in a list of head injuries the center has sustained in a 15-year career.

''I hoped not to get to this point,'' Primeau said, his voice cracking. ''I still have symptoms when I do my physical therapy. Because of that, at this time, I'm not 100 percent. I'm not symptom free.''

But he's not ruling out a return next season. Primeau made enough improvement in key neurological areas, like vision, that he believes he can return for the start of training camp.

Primeau said he never considered retirement.

''I made this decision in the hopes of prolonging my career,'' said Primeau, with owner Ed Snider and general manager Bob Clarke by his side at the Flyers' practice facility.

Since Primeau won't be activated off injured reserve, some of his salary could be used toward acquiring another player before the March 9 trade deadline.

''The contract becomes available if we're able to and want to find another player,'' Clarke said.

Primeau did end speculation about a possible postseason return, saying that it would be nearly two full years since he played hockey on a regular basis and he would be unable to handle the physical demands. He hoped to stick around the organization this season in some capacity.

''He's our captain, he's just not another player,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Primeau hadn't been cleared to play by Flyers doctors and a concussion specialist in Montreal advised him to forgo playing this season and continue his rehab, leaving him with little choice but to try and return next season.

Primeau played in two more games after he was injured, but symptoms forced him out of the Oct. 30 game against Ottawa.

He had one goal and played in nine games for the Flyers (33-16-5) this season. Clarke asked him to make a decision by the end of the Olympic break. The Flyers resume play tonight at New Jersey.

Primeau missed 21 games because of a concussion sustained against the Rangers in the 2003-04 season. He also had at least two head injuries in the 2004 playoffs — in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto and the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

''I wouldn't speculate on how many I've had,'' he said.

Primeau was appointed captain in 2001, but that title has since been given to defenseman Derian Hatcher. Hatcher said he's prepared to return the title to Primeau if he returns.

''I don't know if anyone felt that he could come back,'' Hatcher said.

No matter what Primeau says, his return is no sure thing. He'll turn 35 in November and will have missed nearly all of the last two seasons.

''I've extended my window by about eight months,'' Primeau said. ''With that in mind, we're hoping that will allow me enough time to recover. I know the next decision becomes an even bigger decision.''

''I've extended my window by about eight months. With that in mind, we're hoping that will allow me enough time to recover. I know the next decision becomes an even bigger decision.''