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April 10, 2006 - Primeau leaves door open

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Primeau leaves door open


VOORHEES, N.J. — Although he insists nothing has changed, everything seemed to change when Flyers captain Keith Primeau, in a surprise move, suited up for practice Monday.

The fact that he didn't wear a “no-hit” jersey but dished out a few hits of his own might be a telling sign.

And the message would seem to be: I'm leaving the door slightly ajar for the playoffs ... just in case.

Of course, he couldn't come right out and say that. The post-concussion symptoms that have plagued him since Oct. 25 haven't completely subsided. He still has some issues with refocusing his vision when he makes a quick head turn.

But there's nothing financially stopping him from playing. The salary cap is not a factor when the playoffs start because the players basically play for nothing but pride and the Stanley Cup.

This much we do know — the rest of the Flyers seemed to get a lift just from seeing their teammate on the ice.

If somehow he should be able to come back for the playoffs, which start in about 10 days, it would be a bonus.

“That's a long way off,” Primeau insisted. “It's a hypothetical. My head will have to feel a lot better. It still felt about a foot behind.

“I'm not going back on the comments I made when this started and the comments I made in my (Feb. 28) press conference. At this time, there's no way I can make that assumption.”

At that February press conference, Primeau had vowed to sit out the rest of this season, including the playoffs, and give his body more time to heal. He targeted September as a return date.

Yet, whenever the playoffs near, it's like a siren song to a hockey player. The temptation is hard to resist, which is why Primeau practiced with a few of the Phantoms on Sunday, then came back for a full workout on Monday.

“I felt good,” he said. “My conditioning, my legs, feel about as good as they can for the amount of time I've been off. It felt really good to be part of the practice, enjoy my teammates differently than I have for the last five months.”

Primeau was injured in a game at Montreal on Oct. 25 when he was struck in the head by Canadiens rookie Alexander Perezhogin.

He played one more game before taking himself out of the lineup.

Since then, it's been an uphill battle. Monday, he says, was just a test to see how much progress he's made.

“It was a good opportunity to get my feet wet,” Primeau said. “This is part of my rehab, it's another hurdle and it's a huge hurdle for me. But by no means does it change anything I've stated earlier [about not playing].

“I just keep trying to take it one day at a time and progress. I wasn't any the worse for wear from the little bit of contact I had, which is good and another positive.”

However, Primeau said he would end the experiment if he discovers that it's a distraction to the rest of the team.

Asked if there's enough time to get ready for the playoffs, Primeau said he wasn't sure.


The series of events involving Keith Primeau's current condition:

Feb. 12, 2004: Suffers concussion in collision with New York Rangers' Bobby Holik and misses 21 games.

March 27, 2004: Returns for the last few games of the regular season, then enjoys the best individual playoff performance of his career with nine goals, matching the total for his entire career.

July 2005: Reports symptoms from '04 concussion have finally disappeared.

Oct. 25, 2005: Suffers concussion in collision with Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin.

Feb. 28, 2006: Announces he will miss the rest of the season and return in September.

April 10, 2006: Decides to suit up for practice during which he delivers several hits on other players.