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April 22, 2006 - Primeaus rehab is taking flight

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Primeau’s rehab is taking flight
VOORHEES, N.J. -- There was something in the Flyers locker room Friday that hadn’t been there in quite a long while. It was a happy and jovial Keith Primeau. That’s because he learned he would be able to accompany his teammates on their flight to Buffalo in preparation for tonight’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Sabres.

That might seem like something small, but it has a much more meaningful significance.
See, Primeau was cleared by Flyers team doctors to fly. Something he has not been allowed to do but twice since suffering the concussion last October, and in both instances it was for medical purposes.

Now he can fly with the team.

So, let’s see. He can practice with the team, he can fly with the team the natural order of progression must mean ..he can play with the team?

"It gives me something to work for," said Primeau. "We go back three weeks to when I made the decision to work to get myself back into shape. It was either continue to rest in order to get myself back in September, or push myself as best I can with no guarantees to how it would pan out. I feel better about myself that I did it that way. I’m working toward a goal. The goal is to get back."

Yes, but how soon?

Primeau said at his press conference in late February that he would need about four weeks to get ready to return to play.

Now, it’s been three weeks since he began pushing his body to the max, meaning another week just might do the trick.

"I’ve kind of been trying to gauge myself on a daily basis," said Primeau. "I’m about 85 percent (now) but some days I’m 90 percent. I need to strive to have some more consistency with those 90 percent days."

Meaning he won’t come back unless he’s 100 percent, right?

"That’s what I continue to say," said Primeau. "But, in talking with the doctors, what is 100 percent now? When is 100 percent? Is it next week? Next month? I think it has to be when I feel right."

And Primeau feels pretty darn close to right, right now.

So much so, that you could sense the excitement in his voice when he was talking about it. He was constantly smiling, with a twinkle in his eye, bouncing around like a 4-year-old who needs to use the rest room.

"For me, personally, it’s exciting that I’m able to practice with the guys, be around the guys, and now get on a plane," he said. "Every step or hurdle is another step closer to full recovery. What seems like a menial task to everyone else really excites me. It makes my wife nervous but it excites me."

Still, Primeau is not quite symptom free.

Gone are the headaches and the dizziness and the nausea. In their place are vision inconsistency, elevated blood pressure and occasional light-headedness.

But that’s a far cry from where he was three weeks ago. Even Primeau admits where he’s at right now was nothing more than a pipe dream in March.

"No chance (I thought I’d be this far along)," he said. "I resigned myself to the fact that I’d work toward getting back for the fall. Though I was seeing improvement, I wasn’t seeing it quick enough. To think I’d be skating and biking every day, I would have thought there would be no way I’d do that (so soon)."

But before everyone starts falling all over themselves about the prospects of a Primeau return against Buffalo, Primeau still needs clearance from the doctors to be able to play.

And that could be a lot harder than Primeau wants to imagine.

"They’re all excited for me," Primeau said of the medical staff. "I don’t think it’d be fair to say that any one of them aren’t nervous though about how I’m approaching my activities. They’re not used to dealing with people whose job requires full contact. I think they’re excited but nervous."

One guy who isn’t nervous is Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. That’s because he’s not even thinking about Primeau right now.

"(It means) exactly nothing," said Hitchcock about Primeau traveling with the team. "You can’t read anything (into it). He’s trying to play hockey. But he’s certainly not a player in this series."

How about the next series, if there is a next series?

"Our focus right now is the guys that are in. Keith is here for support," said Hitchcock. "I can’t worry about him, or anyone else. Just like Kim (Johnsson). Kim’s feeling better now, but I can’t wait for him, because that’s like waiting for Mr. Goodbar to show up and that’s not going to happen."