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April 25, 2006 - Looks like Primeau will play in Game 3

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Looks like Primeau will play in Game 3
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There is a desire, a will, a determination that burns inside the body of Keith Primeau.
Sometimes, that competitive fire rages to a point where absolutely nothing can get in its way.

That is, until the concussion Primeau suffered last October forced him to miss practically an entire season and also forced him to hold a news conference in February to emotionally and reluctantly call it quits for the season.
But that’s when the inner flames were fanned in the biggest of ways. That’s when the thought of not being able to play hockey until September at the earliest really started eating away at Primeau.

That’s when he decided, when he felt as close to well as he could, he would begin embarking on a mission to return in time for the playoffs.

It was a long shot, but it was a goal that Primeau was hell-bent on reaching, and it looks like he just might do it -- and sooner than expected.

Like in this opening round series against Buffalo.

Like, maybe even Wednesday night in Game 3 at the Wachovia Center.

According to a team source, Primeau could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday, and if not, Friday assuming he’s feeling well enough and the team doctors clear him to play.

Primeau was cleared by the doctors to start taking hits in practice beginning last Friday, and has not suffered any setbacks from the physical contact since.

At this point, the lone issue remains improving his conditioning to a point where he thinks he is game-ready, which is on the horizon.

Primeau wouldn’t confirm that he’s going to dress for either Game 3 or Game 4, but he wouldn’t deny it either.

"Yeah, I want to play. There is no question that I want to play," said Primeau. "But I made promises to people, like I said before, I made promises to people that I would be smart about this and for me to assume that I’m going to play Wednesday, I can’t do that. I really can’t."

But, is there a chance he could play?

"Again, I can’t say that I really can’t. I can’t," said Primeau. "I’m working to get back. I want to play Wednesday night, but that doesn’t mean I am playing Wednesday night."

Primeau said he wanted to play in both Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but he just didn’t feel completely in game-shape, although most of his post-concussive symptoms are gone.

"I’m close. I feel I’m close," said Primeau. "Again, you ask me how am I feeling today as opposed to another point so I’ve got to tell you, I know what I’m doing brings a lot of questions and I understood that when I took on the challenge.

"But, I’d love to be in the lineup Wednesday night. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to be in the lineup Wednesday night. I (was) trying to be in the lineup (Game 1), I (was) trying to be in the lineup (Game 2)."

Primeau has been excited by his improvements during the past month, and working out and practicing with the team has been a big boost emotionally for him as well.

Now, the "symptoms" he feels may not be post-concussive at all, and rather, could easily be from working out at a level he hasn’t attained since before catching an elbow to the jaw from Montreal’s Alexander Perezhogin in the eighth game of the season.

"I’m feeling better," he said. "I’ve added some light contact in practice here the last few days and I wouldn’t say I was 100 percent in that contact, but I felt pretty darn good. For me it’s how I feel afterward when my heart rate comes back down and the adrenaline settles down and I have to go back to just doing a regular routine and if that’s symptom free then I’m feeling pretty good.

"My head is finally allowing me to try and do more stuff and I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to push it as hard as I can in the hopes that I can try and play at some point."

Still, Game 3 seems to be a good possibility. A very good possibility, with the only thing standing in the way of a glorious return in front of the home crowd being a couple of signatures from medical personnel on some sheets of paper.

"I still have some hurdles before that’s possible so I don’t want to make any guarantees, because that’s not fair," said Primeau. "It’s not fair to my family and it’s not fair to the organization to make that type of assumption without first clearing some hurdles and some visitations to doctors."

But, he’s cleared every other hurdle in the past few weeks, what’s a couple more before the finish line?