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Sabres Central

Biron play helps ignite Sabres
By Rick Anderson
February 1, 2004

Danier Briere gets past newly acquired Jaromir Jagr in the Sabres 3-1 victory over the Rangers Saturday.
[Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images]

The Buffalo Sabres put the hurt on the talent infused New York Rangers, not once, but twice this weekend with identical 3-1 victories. The Sabres suddenly have won 4 straight and are actually making a bid for a playoff spot, being 5 points behind the New York Islanders for the 8th and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

One of the biggest reasons for the Sabres resurgence is the astonishing play of goalie Martin Biron. Biron has been more than stellar in goal as he has allowed just one goal in each of his last three outings. Biron made 33 saves in the victory on Friday, then turned around and made 31 more during Saturday's finish of the home and home series with the Rangers.

Sabres add power to powerplay

The Sabres, who have been criticized over the years for having one of the weaker powerplays in the NHL, suddenly are lighting the lamps all over the NHL with their new-found efficiency. For the past 3 games, Buffalo has netted two PP goals in each. Saturday night, it was J.P. Dumont and Maxim Afinogenov who performed the honors. Friday, it was Daniel Briere and Chris Drury who scored when the Sabres had the man advantage. Ales Kotalik and Miroslav Satan added empty net goals in the two games respectively.

Dumont's goal came with a bit of luck. He was attempting to pass the puck through the crease and it hit the sake of Tom Poti and deflected into the net.

"Sometimes lucky goals are important and tonight it was," admitted Dumont. "It just gave us momentum, and after that everybody just played with confidence."

"You laugh when that goal goes in because you can't draw up that goal," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "When things are going bad you see those go in your net, and when things are going good you see them go in their net."

The Rangers had acquired Jaromir Jagr last week from Washington and the Sabres effectively shut him down. He was unable to get any good scoring chances on Biron, even though he did manage 4 shots Saturday, as the defense concentrated on the dangerous goal scorer.

"I'm frustrated that I couldn't help the team and score goals," Jagr said after the game. "I love this team and I want us to succeed. We need to get some breaks."

The Sabres made sure that neither he nor the Rangers got any breaks.

Sabres trounce Habs

Tuesday, the Sabres handed the Montreal Canadiens a 4-1 shellacking. Once again, it was Biron, making 29 saves. On one he used his catching glove to abort a shot by Joe Juneau, which was the save of the game. It had the former Sabre in a state of disbelief.

"It was as big as it comes," lauded Ruff said. "Marty was fabulous. He made three or four game-breaking saves for us that allowed us to go on and win that game."

The Canadiens coach, Claude Julien, agreed.

"The turning point was Martin Biron making all those saves," Julien said. "If we score on those attempts it's a different game."

Alexei Zhitnik, Maxim Afinogenov, Kotalik and Chris Drury accounted for the Sabres goals in that game. Zhitnik, who credits the use of a new stick, has been a lot more accurate this year in placing his shots on net.

The Sabres now play just one game before the All-Star break next weekend. They host the Boston Bruins Thursday night.

Sabres Talk

January Sabres captain J.P. Dumont was amazed by the play of Biron.

"It's sick," said Dumont about his play. "It's good to see that. Mika (Noronen) has been playing really well, too. They look like they want to compete against each other. That's what we need."

Biron thinks the Sabres are turning the corner and are making a good run for the playoffs.

"Guys are feeling like they're accomplishing something, but it's far from being mission accomplished," admitted Biron. "We have to keep our focus on the goal, and our goal is to keep moving up, getting some points, getting some wins."

Eric Lindros, who suffered his 8th concussion earlier this week, seems to be making some progress.

Matthew Barnaby, ex-Sabres and Lindros' best Rangers' friend, had talked to Lindros before the Rangers played in Buffalo.

"He said he was tired today from doing a lot of traveling back and forth to get checked out," related Barnaby. "He's more on an even keel and I think that's a good sign. Just by the tone of his voice, he seemed better. I've had a few concussions and when you're emotional and keep emotional, usually that's a sign that you're doing pretty good. So hopefully, it's a good sign that his voice sounded upbeat and he's doing better."

As for the Rangers other problems, such as scoring and making the playoffs for the first time in 7 years, they have a lot of sorting out to do.

"We have to pay attention to details," said Dale Purinton, who scored the Rangers only goal Friday night. "We definitely have to bear down here. We have to battle it out. The time is done for talking and making up excuses. We don't have much time, do we? It's time to press the panic button."

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