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Sabres swing 4 deals - acquire Zubrus - to prepare for playoff run

NHL.com @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The Buffalo Sabres went out and got some reinforcements.

Highlighted by the addition of forward Dainius Zubrus, the Sabres completed four trades Tuesday to bolster an injured-depleted lineup and refocus on their goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

"The message to the players is, `We wanted to get you immediate help," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said.

Now it's a question of how quickly the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres - currently down seven regulars - can get healthy.

"Time will tell," Regier said. "As much as we did here, a big telltale is how quickly we can get the injured players back and get them back in rhythm.

The moves came hours prior the NHL's trade deadline, and sparked when Buffalo freed up much-needed salary-cap space by trading veteran backup goalie Martin Biron - and his $2.1 million salary - to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a second round draft pick.

With room to maneuver, the Sabres made their key deal by acquiring Zubrus, an offensive-minded forward, along with prospect defenseman Timo Helbling in a trade with the Washington Capitals. In return, Buffalo gave up rookie forward Jiri Novotny and a first-round pick.

A 10-year NHL veteran, Zubrus was having a resurgence playing alongside young Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Zubrus has 20 goals and 52 points - five short of matching a career high set last season - in 60 games.

"He's a big strong man and he gives us some size down the middle," Regier said, referring to the 6-foot-4 forward. "He's just a good all-around player that can produce."

Zubrus, in the final year of his contract, became expendable when the Capitals were unable to sign him to a long-term deal.

"Dainius and his agent were first class throughout the negotiations, but unfortunately, we had to make a trade," Capitals GM George McPhee said.

In return, the Capitals landed a young forward in Novotny, who has six goals and seven assists in 50 games in his first full NHL season.

"We were going to make sure that if we were trading a player like Zubrus ... We were going to get value," McPhee said. "There were some other deals that we could have done. But Buffalo swooped in, and it was a deal we couldn't refuse."

To replace Biron, the Sabres acquired a less expensive backup goalie in Ty Conklin from Columbus in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. Conklin, a five-year veteran making $525,000 this season, has a 2-3-2 record with a 3.30 goals-against average in 11 appearances.

The Sabres completed the day by trading a fourth-round draft pick to Nashville for minor league defenseman Mikko Lehtonen.

Helbling and Lehtonen will start in the minors, but they add to a Sabres blueline that had little depth beyond its current core of seven.

Biron, an eight-year veteran, proved expendable because he is in the final year of his contract and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He also had asked to be traded, seeking a chance to become a starter elsewhere.

Biron will get that opportunity with the Flyers, who are suddenly carrying three goalies.

"I think it's going to be a great opportunity for me to get to know and experience the Flyers' organization," Biron said. "I think they've shown by doing this move that they wanted me to be here."

Buffalo's first-round pick in the 1995 draft, Biron was the Sabres' longest-serving player.

He has a 12-4-1 record and 3.04 goals-against average this season. His career record is 134-115-25 with four overtime or shootout losses, a 2.53 goals-against average and 18 shutouts.

Flyers' current starter, Antero Niittymaki, has nine wins in 47 games, while Robert Esche - once considered the future in goal - has played in only 18 games and can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

"I know it's not an ideal situation, but he's part of a three-goalie deal for the last 20 games," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said, referring to Biron. "It was a big price to pay for an unrestricted guy. But we didn't give up a second-round pick with the idea of not trying to sign him."

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Associated Press Sports Writers Dan Gelston in Voorhees, N.J., and Joseph White in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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