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At the Sabres / No time like present to shop Biron

The decision isn't overly complex when you reach the heart of the matter. Martin Biron has won a franchise-record 13 straight starts, and the 4-by-6-foot cage belongs to him until further notice. There's no way Sabres coach Lindy Ruff can relieve him now, not with the streak steaming past impressive toward absurd.

Buffalo should continue riding Biron for all he's worth, which happens to be a bargain at $2.12 million this season, and watch his stock skyrocket to heights previously unimagined. And while he leads them through this momentous first half of the season, they should be shopping him around the league.

Sure, it sounds ridiculous now, but it will become an opportunity for the Sabres.

Not since the days of Dominik Hasek has someone controlled the net as Biron has since this euphoric little run began Nov. 15. Truer yet is the fact he's not the Sabres' goalie for the long-term future. Ryan Miller is the guy, the one they believe will someday lead them to the Stanley Cup, and that hasn't changed.

Biron played well enough to win again Saturday evening in a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He made 30 saves while playing behind a faster, hungrier Sabres team that overwhelmed the Pens for the first two periods before hanging on in the third. He secured the win with 30 seconds left after stopping Tomas Surovy on a play that looked eerily similar to the goal Ziggy Palffy scored the previous night.

All told, Biron was solid.

The Sabres have climbed the Eastern Conference standings because he's played so well, but he's also had help. The Sabres have averaged 3.5 goals over the past 16 games en route to a 14-1-1 record. Other than a predictable result against San Jose on a night the Sharks rolled out Joe Thornton, the Sabres have provided an honest effort for more than a month. Their chemistry is right. Their talent is underrated. They have rare balance across their four lines.

Let's face it, the best local sports story is about the fairy tale Sabres, who have become local darlings and a source of civic pride. There's nothing better when this town rallies behind a team and rides the momentum, the way it did when University at Buffalo and Niagara basketball took off last season. It takes Buffalo back to the glory days of the Bills and Sabres that have become all too uncommon.

But let's not plan the parade just yet.

The Sabres are kidding themselves if they believe they're without flaws. Daniel Briere's recurring abdominal problems are troubling. They've overcome J.P. Dumont's absence, but he'll be missed in the next two months. The Sabres could be better with another defenseman who can move the puck and help Jay McKee when opposing teams start pushing them around. If things start falling apart, General Manager Darcy Regier shouldn't waste time pondering his next move.

Regier has complained many times over the years that the Sabres weren't in a position of strength to make a deal. He was right. They were struggling and desperate for change, vulnerable to having their pocket picked. It's no longer the case. The Sabres are winning. They're onto something special. And they have a key asset in Biron, whose value already is higher than expected.

It would be a bold move, but it would be the right move if the Sabres can get the right player. Vancouver, Atlanta and Colorado are in the market for goalies and could become desperate enough to unload a key player. The Sabres are darned good already, and they're in position to get better.

Ideally, Buffalo would keep both goalies. It's also not reality. You can't find many players who are better teammates or better people than Biron has been with the Sabres, but there aren't enough nets to keep him and Miller happy and effective.

If the Sabres hold Biron too long, his value will decrease. GMs can see the bigger picture. Biron has been terrific, but the 13 games amount to less than 5 percent of his career.

When do they trade him? Whom do they receive in return? It's what Regier needs to decide. In the meantime, the Sabres should savor the streak while they can.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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