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Martin Biron finds a familiar rhythm as Sabres analyst

Hey, Marty!

It's a phrase he can't escape. At the grocery store. At his son's hockey practice. In the hallway of KeyBank Center. Wherever Martin Biron is, within a few minutes he'll hear, "Hey, Marty!" And then end up in a 20-minute conversation about hockey and Buffalo and the Sabres.

It's part of the package of his job with the Buffalo Sabres broadcast crew. While Biron has been a media analyst for a while, including gigs with the NHL Network and the Canadian sports network TSN, this is his first full season on the Sabres broadcast. He works the pre-game show, intermissions and post-game show with host Brian Duff.

Thirty-three games into this particular venture, Biron said it's "better than advertised."

Working for a team's broadcast night in, night out, has taken Biron back to the rhythm of his own playing days.

"You know you can watch the games on TV all the time or you can come to the games, but when you're really working the game and thinking the game and watching some practices and trying to break it down, talking to the players, it really brings you back to when you were playing," said Biron, who was a goalie with the Sabres from 1995 to 2007 and retired in 2013.

He gave an example Friday morning, after the Sabres had lost to the Flyers in Philadelphia and before their game with Carolina in KeyBank Center (which ended up being a 5-4 overtime loss).

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Working the broadcast, Biron said, "brings you back to, what's the preparation on a day like today? You're facing Carolina. You played last night in Philly. You came back. Optional skate. How do you adjust playing a Philadelphia team to now playing a Carolina team? It brings you back to when you were playing and how you prepared or how you saw the team prepare. So all of that put together definitely puts you in that game-ready mode. You get up in the morning. There's a game. OK, morning skate. Gotta do this. Gotta do that. So it's back to the routine and that's a lot of fun."

It's a lot of fun also because his performance isn't critiqued daily in the media.

"The only difference is that at the end of the night, yeah, you have a great show, you have a show where maybe it's not as good, it doesn't show in the paper the next day," Biron said. "It doesn't say, you gave up six goals on 20 shots, you got pulled. So that's a lot better that way. But you still feel the ups and downs of the games, the ups and downs of the broadcasts."

Ups and downs of the broadcast, you say? There's more than just a paycheck earned playing hockey. There's an opportunity to learn valuable life lessons that can translate into other situations, and other jobs. Like on Thursday night. When the Sabres are on the road, Biron and Duff stay in Buffalo, broadcasting their part of the show from an in-house studio. And sometimes, things go wrong.

"We had some little difficulties," Biron said. "We lost our feed (Thursday) going into our pregame show so you finish the pregame show and you're like, 'Man, what happened there?' But then you realize you still have two intermissions and a postgame and you've got to be able to put it behind you and move forward, right? It's kinda like that same grind, that same routine as to when you were playing. Other than the fact that you spend a lot more time at home than you used to. When they're on the road for a week playing three games, you're at home almost every day getting stuff done so that's good."

The broadcast has been entertaining, particularly Biron's easy-going nature with Duff. But the on-ice product itself has been difficult to watch at times, many times, early this season.

The Sabres are 8-18-7 after their 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina on Friday. The team was off on Saturday, returning to practice Sunday as they prepare to host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

In the Sabres, Biron sees a team finding its way after struggling at the start of the season. And he's patient because, he said, no one knows what kind of team first-year general manager Jason Botterill and first-year head coach Phil Housley are eventually going to build.

"Jason Botterill is going to have that evaluation period done and then they start building the team the way they want it," Biron said. "Because you can say whatever you want, you can say there's not enough talent, or there's not enough speed, or there's not enough grit. And it's not really all of that. I think it's just a matter of giving the team a direction. Right now, you're in a transition period and it's hard because you don't know where that team is going to be in two years, what Coach Housley and the general manager want the team to look like. Right now it's a mix between what the team used to look like and what it may look like, but we have no idea. So I’m patient, but it was a tough, tough start."

Is Biron perhaps being too positive? Fans ask him that all the time, but Biron doesn't see it as being positive.

"It's just calling it the way I look at it," Biron said. "I look at the game against Philadelphia. If this team was five games over .500 we wouldn't even look at that game twice. We'd say, eh, they had opportunity, they lose 2-1 on the road to a team that's hot, no big deal. Move on. They're not five games over .500, and so now it becomes, 'We only had 20 shots and oh, we really couldn't execute well.'

"I try not to look at the circumstances. I try to look at that game, which is hard to do. But you've got to be honest, and obviously you don't always want to be on the negative, because the game is 95 percent mistakes and 5 percent great plays. So it's easy to point out the mistakes. You've got to balance it out and be able to show the good stuff as well."

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