There was a time when Keith Primeau's primary goal was to follow in the footsteps of Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk.
He's now trying to knock his fellow Whitby natives on their butts.
A year ago, Primeau and Roberts engaged in some epic battles along the boards during the Philadelphia Flyers' first-round elimination of the Maple Leafs in seven gritty games.
Twelve months later, Primeau did an outstanding job in smothering Nieuwendyk in Philly's 3-1 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-final on Thursday night.
Is that any way to treat a couple of players he admired while growing up in Whitby?
"I remember wanting to be like those two guys back then," Primeau, 32, said yesterday. "Both came out of our town and both were well-known for their skills in hockey and lacrosse.
"As far as hockey goes, the thing about those guys is that it showed me that I had options in the quest to meet my goals. Joe went to college; Gary played junior. That let me know that there was two different ways to go."
Primeau kept tabs on Roberts and Nieuwendyk as they tested the waters of the NHL.
"Joe's brother, Gil, used to officiate some of my games," Primeau said. "We'd be lined up for a faceoff when I'd look up at Gil and say, "How's Joe doing?' "
For the record, Joe Nieuwendyk is not doing very well right now. He is not expected to play in Game 2 tonight, potentially making Primeau's job a bit easier.
Then again, Primeau is taking nothing for granted these days.
Not so long ago, the 6-foot-5 centre wondered if he would ever play hockey again. A concussion suffered from a Bobby Holik hit -- "probably an elbow" Primeau said -- caused him to miss 21 games, leaving his future up in the air.
"I turned up the ice and was blindsided," he said of the incident, which occurred less than a minute after teammate Jeremy Roenick's jaw was shattered by a puck during a game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Feb. 12.
"I was really concerned for a while, but the symptoms began to dwindle late in the season."
It was the third documented concussion of his career.
"The worst symptom was the dizziness, the spinning, Primeau said.
"I'm just relieved it's over."
Flyers' Primeau his own man now
MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun
, Last Updated: 6:01 PM ET