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April 23, 2006 - Flyers cautious with Primeau

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Flyers cautious with Primeau
Sunday, April 23, 2006


Talk to Flyers captain Keith Primeau and you see rays of sunlight streaming over his broad shoulders. Talk to Flyers head athletic trainer Jim McCrossin and you see a daunting shadow.

For every step Primeau takes in his recovery from post-concussion syndrome, McCrossin is tightening the harness, making sure the 6-foot-5, 230-pound center does not let the excitement of the Stanley Cup playoffs cloud his vision.

"I feel pretty good today," Primeau said after skating with his teammates Saturday morning at HSBC Arena. "As much as it's been hit-or-miss the last week, on the ice I'm having more good days than bad.

"It's an uphill battle to have any semblance of conditioning and push the envelope as best I can without pushing over the edge. The good days I'll take, and today was a good day."

Primeau is not expected to be medically cleared during the Flyers' first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres. But if he can convince McCrossin and team doctor Gary Dorshimer that his symptoms are not a threat to his health, he could theoretically play in Round 2 if the Flyers advance.

McCrossin said he's been encouraged by Primeau's progress in the last three weeks, but has tempered his enthusiasm because he knows the danger Primeau might be putting himself in by returning while still experiencing even the slightest symptoms.

Primeau said he could suffer a stroke if he is struck in the head while still experiencing symptoms.

"I told Keith before that the No. 1 thing is his health," McCrossin said. "The team is not going to put somebody back in and jeopardize his health. I have to face Lisa (Primeau's wife) if, God forbid, something happens. I wouldn't want to do that. Or his (four) kids.

"The athletes say they are ready, you know they are not ready, and you put them back in and they get hurt and then they become mush brains. How do you go back to the wife and say, "I'm sorry. Here's your husband.' I don't want to be the one who does that."

Primeau, 34, was curious to see how he'd feel after flying for the first time in two months. On his two previous flights, the plane's cabin pressure caused headaches that lasted three days. Primeau said he felt much better Saturday morning than he had after his flights to North Carolina and Toronto.

"I woke up and there was a little bit of pressure, but I think it was more due to dehydration than anything," Primeau said. "If I can hydrate myself, that will rectify itself."

McCrossin said Primeau still has trouble "locking in" on objects while working out, but is encouraged that those vision problems subsided quickly.

On the ice, Primeau still experiences some light-headedness and said he needs to differentiate concussion symptoms from conditioning symptoms.

"That's kind of the line I've got to walk now," Primeau said. "I think the difference is the post-concussion is light-headedness, where I get that disconnect. Anything else is working and getting your heart rate up. I'm still a little nervous. It's still a little scary."

Saturday marked the first playoff game Primeau has missed for the Flyers since he missed two games in the Flyers' first-round loss to the Sabres.

"It's tough, especially this time of year," he said. "You want to be a part of it. Being here with the guys and feeling energy and being around the atmosphere has really lifted my spirits and has been good for me emotionally. But obviously, I would much rather be on the ice with the guys."

Primeau said he will continue skating with the team throughout the playoffs, pushing himself a little more each day.

"I'm just trying to build it up and go as close to the edge as I can. I'll take a step back the rest of the day and see how I am. If I'm good, I'll keep trying to build."

Goalie callup: Who was the masked man at the Flyers' morning skate on Saturday?

His name is Scott Monroe and his story is a strange one.

The Flyers recalled Monroe, 24, from the Phantoms, where he played just two games last month after spending the season with the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

The Flyers would have recalled Phantoms goaltender Martin Houle as their third goalie for the playoffs, but he injured his hand in a fight with another goalie in the Phantoms' next-to-last game.

Monroe, who was recalled by the Phantoms last month after playing for the Division II Chargers, was asked if he'd like to join the Flyers in their playoff quest.

"It's been kind of a whirlwind," said Monroe, a 6-2, 200-pound native of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. "I'm just excited to be here. For them to bring a guy like me who has played in two NHL games just coming out of college is kind of an honor."

Monroe, a senior marketing major, said he hopes his callup is a springboard to a professional career.

"I don't see how it couldn't (help)," Monroe said. "I'm playing with guys like (Peter) Forsberg and Primeau and guys I grew up watching. To come in here and be on the ice with these guys, I'm a little bit in awe."