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April 3, 2006 - Flyers follow leader

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My Keith Primeau Page

Flyers follow leader
 
Ailing captain Primeau still hasn't lost touch with team
 
By AL STRACHAN, TORONTO SUN

TORONTO -- Even though Philadelphia Flyers captain emeritus Keith Primeau is out for the season with a concussion, he never is very far from his team.

He's on the ice at least three times a week and he's now their "overview coach"

"Towards the end of the year they always bring in someone," Primeau said. "They call him an eye in the sky. It's usually a coach up in the press box just watching tendencies: Team tendencies,the way we're playing, how we're doing with our systems, if with our systems we're doing something wrong.

"He's watching the game but he's not watching in that regard. He's watching the team. He's watching the players and how they're playing in certain situation. It's kind of an overview."

The entire Flyers organization is unanimous in its opinion that the absence of Primeau's leadership is the biggest concern as the team heads into the playoffs.

Because he finally is starting to show signs of genuine recovery, Primeau is spending more time with the team.

But for most of the season, he didn't.

"I've really tried to keep my distance in that sense," he said. "Knowing the difficulties I was having and the limited chance I had of returning this year, I didn't want to have an influence.

'DIRECT THE SHIP'

"It has really taken the group a long time to kind of find how to direct the ship. I'm not in there enough to know if there is one guy necessarily, so much as the veteran group has kind of taken it upon themselves to right the ship and direct it collectively."

That veteran group, led by Derian Hatcher, has filled some of the communications gap created by Primeau's absence. The Flyers' playoff success, or lack of it, will determine how effective that group has been.

But Primeau thinks the Flyers' injury-plagued season will stand his team in good stead.

"It's teams like this -- that go through that adversity in the regular season -- that find the fortitude in the playoffs," he said. "Teams that sail through the regular season and don't have their backs against the wall just kind of don't respond the same way.

"Our young kids are grizzled already and they've really turned a corner and are playing great hockey for us. It's a tossup in the Eastern Conference and we're one of those team you can toss up in the air."