Marty Biron doesn't play for the Sabres anymore but he understands the pain being felt in the Buffalo area after last week's crash of Continental Flight 3407. That's because the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender still lives in Clarence, perhaps only 2 miles from the crash scene.
"I was at the grocery store the next morning and my mom texted me from Quebec City and asked, 'Did that plane crash around your house?' " Biron recalled Thursday in the Wachovia Center. "I had no idea. I called my father-in-law and he said, 'Yeah, it happened right in Clarence Center.' "
Biron lives with his wife and children in the offseason in a house about a mile from Sabres backup goaltender Patrick Lalime and maybe 1,000 yards through the woods from Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. He said his brother-in-law attended Monday's community prayer service for the victims at Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church.
"In Buffalo, if it affects one person it affects everybody," Biron said. "Our home church was Eastern Hills Wesleyan and my brother-in-law was telling me how amazing that service was. My mother-in-law went too in support of the community.
"The whole thing has ripple effects throughout the country, throughout Canada. The support of everyone is really another way you realize why Buffalo is such a neat community to live in and such a wonderful place to be. Everybody wants to help out."
Biron made his fourth straight start in goal for the Flyers Thursday night, taking advantage of a flu bug that felled fellow starter Antero Nittymaki. Biron entered the game with wins in his last three starts, right on the heels of a four-game losing streak that saw him post a 3.56 GAA and .883 save percentage.
Biron and Flyers goaltender coach Rejean Lemelin had a heart-to-heart about the netminder's play and Biron said his mental approach has been better in recent outings.
"We've faced adversity with a lot of guys sick this year," Biron said. "Every time somebody went down, we pick it up. That's what I've tried to do here and it's been working."
With the exception of Thomas Vanek, all of the injured Sabres took part in the morning skate but the team continues to take the cautious approach to Henrik Tallinder's shoulder. The veteran defenseman has returned to full practice mode but was kept out of the lineup for the 12th straight game.
Meanwhile, Ruff said he had no new information on Vanek. The Sabres' leading scorer wrote this week on his personal Web site that it might be five to six weeks before he can return from his fractured jaw rather than the three to four the Sabres are hoping for.
"I didn't know he had a Web site. Maybe it's Austrian time then," Ruff cracked when asked if there's been any change in Vanek's status. "It might not be American time. They have five-day weeks over there? We have seven-day weeks. . . . I'm not changing anything. He's back exercising now. We'll see where he's at. Obviously that timeframe can change but we're trying to be realistic at pushing that three- to four-week range."
With enforcer Riley Cote in the Flyers' lineup, Buffalo dressed tough guy Andrew Peters for the first time in eight games and just the fourth time since the new year. Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Paetsch were the healthy scratches.
The Spectrum, Buffalo's house of horrors in the early years of its existence when it was the Flyers' home, is in its final year across the parking lot from the Wachovia Center before being torn down after the season to make way for a hotel and other retail development. It is mainly used these days as the home of the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms.
As part of a seasonlong celebration of the building's heritage dating to its 1967 opening, the Flyers played one final game there during the preseason. The NBA's 76ers will play a farewell game there against Chicago on March 13.
Another odd event will take place March 3 when the Harlem Globetrotters meet their old foibles, the Washington Generals, in a game played on the roof of the building. That one, however, will be played with no spectators and will simply be a promotion for a Trotters' Wachovia Center appearance.
The Sabres lost all three games of the 1975 Stanley Cup finals in the Spectrum, scoring just one goal in each. They didn't win a single game in the building until Nov. 10, 1977 -- the eighth season of their history. Before finally pulling out that 3-2 victory, they were 0-18-2 at the Spectrum counting the three playoff defeats.