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April 23, 2006 - Primeau pushing envelope

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Primeau pushing envelope

Bucks County Courier Times

BUFFALO — Is Keith Primeau's comeback try courageous or foolhardy?

The Stanley Cup playoffs make NHL players do crazy things. Primeau is aware of this. He knows he's straddling a very fine line between trying to overcome the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and resuming his playing career at the risk of his long-term health.

Everyone can chime in with their opinions; Flyer management, the medical staff, his wife and kids.

But ultimately the decision rests with Primeau, who was conspicuous Saturday morning by the nameplate mounted above his locker in the visiting dressing room at HSBC Arena.

Primeau made it through Friday's flight up here in reasonably good shape. He reported some pressure in his head when he woke up Saturday but that seemed to dissipate after an hour-long workout, both with teammates and by himself.

He's nearly two weeks into this now and you can sense the dogged determination. It's almost as if he's trying to will his way through this.

He might not play hockey again this season. He might not ever play hockey again.

But if that is the case, at least he can walk away from the game knowing he exhausted every possible option.

In addition to no post-flight ill effects, Primeau made it through his most demanding practice to date. He took part in one-on-one drills, which really require conditioning.

Each new day offers its unique challenge. He's trying to find the divide between healthy exhaustion and the concussion-related kind.

“It's been so long, it's kind of the line I have to walk now,'' Primeau said. “What is conditioning and what is exertional post-concussion? I think the difference is with the post-concussion, I get lightheadedness, the disconnect. Anything else is just getting your blood pressure and your heart rate up.

“It's still a little nervous, still a little scary.''

After everyone caught the bus back to the hotel for some lunch and a nap, Primeau was making his way to an exercise bike with a driven expression on his face.

Having seen what Primeau has accomplished in the past, who could rule out an appearance by him before the Flyers' playoff run ends?

“I felt pretty good today,'' he said. “As much as it's been hit or miss in the last week, on the ice, I'm having more good days than bad. It's an uphill battle to get any semblance of conditioning. And push the envelope as much as I can without pushing it over the edge. Good days I'll take and today was a good one.''

Head trainer Jim McCrossin is instrumental in Primeau's quest to return. The two talk every day. McCrossin tries to keep it “real,'' giving Primeau the most realistic, blunt assessment one could expect.

“His best chance of coming back is to stay in shape and that's why we brought him up,'' McCrossin said. “Nobody was back there (in Voorhees) to monitor him and I can't let him skate by himself. The flight was great, no symptoms.''

McCrossin won't let Primeau get anywhere near a game until he's satisfied there's next to no risk.

“I would have to face Lisa (Primeau's wife), his kids. God forbid. An athlete tells you he's ready, he goes back in and it's "mush brains.' How do you go back to his wife and say, "here's your husband?' I don't want to be the one to have to do that.''