The audition of Martin Biron is officially underway.
The goaltender turned in a good outing in his 40 minutes of action Saturday night in the opener of the Sabres' preseason schedule. Biron gave up two goals on 16 shots as Buffalo tied the Boston Bruins, 2-2, before 9,482 in Blue Cross Arena.
Biron is hoping to give the Sabres' coaching staff and management something to think about when it comes to their selection of goalies for the coming season. While Biron probably will wind up in Rochester for the second straight season, a strong training camp could earn him a spot as the backup to Dominik Hasek.
"This is a huge training camp for me," Biron said after the game. "Any camp is always huge, but you always want to make an impression. When you're 18 or 19, you don't have a really good chance of making the team. But after two years as a pro, you remember that this (the NHL) is where you've always wanted to be. Realistically, I think I have a better chance now to stay with the team than I've ever had. Any time I get to chance to play, I have to jump on it."
The Sabres shouldn't have too many battles for available roster spots once the team's unsigned players turn up, but second-string goaltender figures to be one of those competitions. Dwayne Roloson backed up Hasek last season, but Biron is coming off a sparkling season in the American Hockey League. He had a 36-13-3 record with a 2.07 goals-against average for Rochester and was the AHL's first-team all-star goalie.
The Sabres would like to see Biron develop into Hasek's replacement when Hasek retires after this season. The question is whether Biron would develop more as a second-stringer in Buffalo or as the regular starter in Rochester in the coming season. For his part, Biron believes the big leagues are the place to be.
"If it were any other team I don't know what I would say. But Dominik has one more year left, and there's no place like being next to him," he said. "You can learn the way he does it. I think it would be the best thing for me."
Coach Lindy Ruff added, "Training camp is a chance for a lot of players (to make the NHL) and he's one of them. Obviously he wants to have a very good camp, and he wants the decision to be made on our part to be a tough one."
Biron helped his argument for staying with a solid performance.Kyle McLaren beat him in the middle of the first period on the power play with a shot through traffic from between the circles. After David Moravec tied the game early in the second period for Buffalo, Don Sweeney bounced a puck off Buffalo's Richard Smehlik and past Biron to put Boston ahead at 5:05 of the second period.
Biron then came up with some solid saves to keep Buffalo close, including stops on a pair of breakaways late in the second period. "I think the game went well for me, especially since I hadn't gotten the feel of a game so far this season," Biron said. "The guys played well in front of me. The ice was a little shaky. I thought we had good communication with the defense tonight, even though some of the guys haven't played together and some of them don't speak much English. I thought we did a great job from that point of view."
Another Sabres' first-round draft choice, Mika Noronen, came on in the third period. He also played well, blanking the Bruins through the end of overtime after Wayne Primeau tied the game for Buffalo with 7:05 left.
"It was a good effort," Ruff said. . . . Both teams skated well, and there was some good banging."
The contest marked Buffalo's first look at a new overtime rule. Each team is limited to four skaters during the extra session, which -- if Saturday's game is any indication -- should lead to plenty of extra scoring chances.
The rule was used in the AHL last season, and Biron doesn't mind the added pressure it puts on goalies.
"I like it. It gives us a better chance to score," he said. "We went 3-0-1 in four games with it last season in Rochester. It's a great format. The people are going to love it."