Primeau downplays possible playoff return

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau,
who said five weeks ago he would miss the rest of the season,
practiced with the team Monday but downplayed speculation he might
return for the playoffs.

Primeau, sidelined since Oct. 30 with post-concussion symptoms,
took part in a number of contact drills and didn't wear anything
designating him as being injured.

In a press conference Feb. 28, the 34-year-old Primeau insisted
that he wouldn't return to the NHL until September at the earliest.
But he has been feeling better in recent weeks and decided to test
his progress.

"I felt good," Primeau 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.

Afterward, he experienced problems with balance and vision. Some
of those symptoms have subsided, he said.

"This is part of my rehab," Primeau said. "It's another
hurdle and it's a huge hurdle for me. But by no means does it
change anything I've stated earlier. 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."

Asked whether he has enough time to get ready for the playoffs,
which start April 21, Primeau said he wasn't sure.

"That's a long way off," he said. "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 press conference. At this time,
there's no way I can make that assumption."

Derian Hatcher, filling in as captain in Primeau's absence, said
the whole team got a lift from the experience.

"Any time you have a guy coming back, they bring energy with
them," Hatcher said. "It's good to see."

General manager Bob Clarke said the decision to return is

"Until the doctors tell us he can play, I'm not even going to
worry about it," Clarke said. "We've been under the assumption
he's not going to play. I think it's been impressive what he's
accomplished to get back this far. It's really up to the doctors
and Keith. The Flyers can use him, but it's his decision."