WE CAUGHT up with Keith Primeau to get his thoughts on Sidney Crosby's triumphant return to the ice since sustaining a concussion in January. The injury idled the Penguins superstar some 10 months until he was finally cleared to play on Nov. 21. He was supposed to play tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Then, on Monday, in his eighth game back, Crosby had a freak collision with teammate Chris Kunitz and is now out for the next two games. Crosby appeared to injure his knee, not his head, but the Penguins are parking their superstar regardless. Crosby passed concussion tests, but is being benched "as a precaution."

We lay this up against what Primeau faces just about every day. He was knocked out of hockey shortly after Sid the Kid joined the NHL. Crosby and Primeau each scored a goal in Sid's first visit to Philly on Oct. 14, 2005. Three games later, a hit by Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin would turn out to end Primeau's career. But not before Primeau, the Flyers captain, played two more games!

"Things are different. That's where we've advanced," Primeau said of the cautious treatment of Crosby. "Having a greater understanding and appreciation for how severe the [concussion] injury is. Ultimately, the Sidney Crosby case will be a case study on proper protocol and procedure on how to protect."

Primeau, 40, coaches several youth hockey clubs in South Jersey and is dedicated to protecting youngsters from head trauma. His Bantam Midget (13-year-olds) team is among the first to use something called an Impact Indicator, a cutting-edge device used to gauge the force of hits. Primeau takes this cause so seriously that he already has pledged to donate his brain to science for further study when he moves on to that great penalty box in the sky.

So while many hockey fans (maybe even some Flyers' supporters) are lamenting Crosby's being laid up again, Primeau is just fine with it. It's horribly cliche', but better safe than sorry.

"You don't want to walk around in the shoes of someone with postconcussion symptoms," he said. "Trust me . . . I can't say there's a day that goes by that I don't recognize that I damaged my brain."