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Painful lesson as backup leads to Biron's revival as starter

by Dan Rosen /

Martin Biron's stellar season ( VIDEO) has included a 7-2 record for the month of October, when he rang up five straight wins, two shutouts, and a 1.67 GAA for the Flyers.
Martin Biron had some clout on a young Buffalo Sabres team in 2005-06, even as a backup goalie.

Take extra shots after practice? No way.

Show up early for practice early? Not a chance.

“Usually a lot of the backups work extra hard, they stay on the ice for 20 minutes or a half-hour after practice, but I can’t put myself in that category,” Biron, now the Philadelphia Flyers’ No. 1 goalie, told “Guys used to yell at me for getting off the ice earlier than I should have. They still like me, I hope. Hey, I snuck myself out. We had a young team and I was a little older, so I was able to call my own shots at times.”

Biron was going through his own transition period as he adjusted to his role as No. 2 behind youngster Ryan Miller. Biron learned an unfortunate lesson that anything can happen to a backup goalie back on Nov. 2, 2005.

Biron finally cracked the lineup for the first time in 11 games four nights earlier and the Sabres won, 6-4, on Long Island. Buffalo returned home to prepare for a divisional game against Ottawa. Biron, who was getting acclimated to his backup role, figured Miller would get the start with a strong Senators team in town.

“So, I walked through practice the day before, and then I come to find out Ryan broke his finger and I had to play that night,” Biron recalled. “I don’t know if I was that prepared because I had taken it easy the day before and even that morning.”

Biron allowed three goals on his first six shots before being replaced by Mika Noronen seven minutes into the game. He returned in the third period and gave up three more on 13 shots in the Sabres’ 10-4 defeat.

“That was a very good lesson,” Biron said. “You have to go through your routine if you’re playing or not. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played in 10 games or played in 10 straight because you never know what is going to happen.”

Biron was dealt Feb. 27 to Philadelphia in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft. Biron embraced the trade as his second opportunity to be a No. 1 with no strings attached.

Currently, Biron is backstopping the Flyers to a resurgent season, but it was the night in Buffalo two years ago that taught him an important lesson: If you’re not ready, you have no chance.

“Mental toughness is obviously a big thing in our game, and if backups can’t handle the pressure of filling in, their careers will be very short,” Ottawa GM Bryan Murray said. “That happens to lots of players.

“The key for a backup goalie is to be included in the everyday operations with the rest of the guys on the team,” Biron said. “When the rest of the guys embrace the backup and make them feel included in everything the team does, it’s a lot easier for the guy to feel that he’s a big part of the team. When I was in Buffalo, I had the whole team supporting what I was doing, which made it easier for me to want to give back them.”

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