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Big man looks to pass

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002

TAMPA -- Mathieu Biron has the hulking frame of a bruising defenseman, but he'll pass on that stereotype.

Biron, called up Dec.31 from Springfield, is the team's biggest defenseman at 6 feet 6, 221 pounds. But his passing stands out.

"You just see me from the outside and see another big, tall defenseman," said Biron, a 1998 first-round pick of Los Angeles who was acquired during the offseason from the Islanders.

"You expect to see me in a more physical way. But the way I move the puck has always been one of my strong points."

It's no secret the Lightning is struggling to score. In calling up Biron for the second time this season, coach John Tortorella said he hopes the 21-year-old Lac-St. Charles, Quebec, native will help the transition game.

"The thing we're really impressed with is his puck-moving skills," Tortorella said. "He's showing that even more his second time here. We hope he stays playing at the level he is ... and stays here."

Biron, who played 74 games in two seasons with the Islanders, was up for 12 early this season. But his play faltered. In 23 games with Springfield, he had three goals, four assists and was plus-4.

Since being recalled, he has played well in four games, including a season-high 18:06 of ice time in Sunday's 3-0 victory at Phoenix.

"The guys have tried to help me and keep things positive around me," Biron said. "That's helped me a lot because the mental part is a big part of the game."

The NHL is a better showcase for Biron's passing skills than the AHL, Tortorella said. "In the American league, if the puck is there, 10 guys are there," he said. "In this league, there is a lot of channeling and angling and cutting the ice in half. But you have better players around you where you can move the puck. That may help him."

As handy as Biron is with the puck, defense is his first responsibility. And that's where his big frame comes in handy, chipping pucks off the sticks of opposing players without straying from the middle of the ice.

"The thing they wanted him to work on before was protecting the middle of the ice and playing strong defense," defenseman Jassen Cullimore said. "They haven't had to remind him this time. He's skating well and moving the puck well."

PUNT, PASS AND PUCKS: Saturday's Buccaneers game, which starts at 4:30 p.m., will be shown at the Ice Palace before the Lightning's 7:30 p.m. game against Ottawa.

It will be on in the Chrysler-Jeep Plaza and Shots at Channelside, two nonticketed areas, the Icons and Medallions restaurants, the Jumbotron and sets throughout the concourse. Doors open at 4.

ONE-TIMERS: Center Tim Taylor had an MRI Thursday on his groin. Taylor, who was hurt Jan.4 and has not practiced since, said the results will be known today. He is day to day along with wing Fredrik Modin, who is nursing several injuries and left practice Thursday after 15 minutes. ... Wing Zdeno Ciger was excused from practice to attend to a personal matter.

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