Backup Martin Biron asked for a trade over the summer and didn't get his wish, but he's remained a model teammate and has been a big part of the team's early success, according to No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller. "Marty is a good soul," Miller said Wednesday from Buffalo, N.Y. "I think he's the kind of person that would step out of the way for the good of the team.
"Marty is a huge part of our team. His personality makes a difference (and) he is such a great goalie that I think we have a chance to win with him in the net."
Winning has not been an issue so far in Buffalo.
Miller is 8-0-1 while Biron is 2-0-0 this season, helping the Sabres to the best record in the NHL.
Biron asked the only organization he's played for to send him elsewhere last June after signing a one-year qualifying offer from the Sabres for US$2.1 million.
"I love being here," he said at the time. "But I want to play.
"I'm just hoping that I get to be a starter on opening night somewhere."
Clearly, it didn't happen.
Miller understands Biron's desire to see more action but he hopes that his close friend considers what he might be leaving behind before again asking to be dealt.
"I think that he's in a situation where this summer he just kind of took time to voice his opinion, and you can respect that as a player," said Miller, who is earning $2 million this year. "But I think he knows the amount of fun we have here in Buffalo."
It goes even deeper than that.
One need only look to Carolina's Stanley Cup season a year ago to understand the importance of having two solid goaltenders. Martin Gerber helped the Hurricanes to one of the best records in the regular season before rookie Cam Ward carried them through the playoffs.
A more wide open game has put NHL goalies under more heat than they're traditionally used to.
"There's more scoring opportunities, there's more penalty kills," said Miller. "There's a lot more stress on the goalies, so I mean, you need two guys. It's not going to be like in the old days like where you're only seeing 20 shots a night.
"Those are pretty easy nights compared to a lot of nights we see now."
With fewer easy nights for the No. 1, the backup role might be as important as it's ever been.
Biron was selected 16th overall in the 1995 draft by the Sabres and started 72 games for the team in 2001-02. In all, he's played 283 games for Buffalo and has compiled a record of 124-111-25 while recording 18 shutouts.
Accepting a lesser role has not been easy. Biron, 29, would be considered a legitimate starter in some other NHL cities.
"I don't think (wanting to start is) being selfish," Biron said in June. "It's wanting to fulfil everything that you think you can do."
He essentially lost the starter's job last season. Miller came in and won 30 of 48 starts a year ago before leading the Sabres to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, where they were beaten by Carolina.
Miller, 26, has picked up right where he left off this year and was named the NHL's first star of the month for October. He credited the team's commitment to defence for helping him to the honour.
"We work as a unit," said Miller. "In our own zone we do a good job of supporting each other in the shooting lanes.
"So I think Marty and I definitely benefit from a situation like that."