- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Washington Capitals are giving defenseman Mathieu Biron a second chance. Or perhaps it is his fourth, fifth or sixth.

All he cares about is he is getting another shot.

Biron, all 6-foot-6, 230 pounds of him, will be in the lineup tonight in Atlanta as the Caps’ seventh defenseman (usually only six play) or right wing on the seldom-used fourth line. But he will be in uniform and participating, and that’s all that matters to him.

“If I can be in a position where I can make a difference in the game, then I welcome the opportunity,” he said.

There have been few opportunities this season. Biron has played in only 11 of the club’s 31 games and only five since Oct.13. But that has been the story of his once-promising career — he has been in the NHL since 1999 but has played just 212 games.

It’s not that Biron doesn’t make the effort; he is a willing and tireless worker. But, perhaps because of his size and the rapid growth spurt he hit as a teen, there are times when his brain tells his body to do something and the body doesn’t react as quickly as needed.

“I was always the biggest kid out there when we were growing up,” said Biron, 25. “Then when I was 14, I grew six inches in six months, and I had to learn a lot of stuff all over again. I had to let my brain catch up to my coordination or the other way around. That took about a year and a half.”

His performance in Quebec junior leagues was rewarded; he was drafted 21st overall by Los Angeles in 1998. He never played a game for the Kings, however. He was traded to the New York Islanders on draft day a year later in a multiplayer swap. Then he was off to Tampa Bay, Florida and now Washington, where he signed as a free agent over the summer.

He struggled through training camp and made the team because of a one-way contract. The team has been trying to find a spot for him ever since.

“I like him up front,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “His top asset is his shot [a one-timer] and his passing ability, skills you need on the power play. So we’re dressing him as our 18th skater. If something goes wrong on defense, he can play there. If there’s lots of power-play time, he can play there. And we can double-shift Alex Ovechkin in his spot on the fourth line.

“Mathieu has done a good job for us. He’s worked hard, and he hasn’t complained; he hasn’t created a problem for himself or for us. It’s the hardest thing in the world to tell a guy every night he’s not playing, and I know it’s hard hearing it.”

Biron has a powerful shot from the point, and he usually is right on target. But the Caps may decide to use him down low on the power play, where he can use his massive frame to create havoc in front of the net, blocking the goalie’s line of sight.

Biron has been getting plenty of support from his brother, Martin, three years older, who is in his eighth year as a goalie with Buffalo and is on a 13-game winning streak.

“I have been talking to him a lot, especially when things were not going the way I had hoped this season,” the younger Biron said. “He was struggling also at the start of the season, so it just shows how quickly things can turn around. He’s the hottest goalie in the league right now.”

Note — Olie Kolzig and three other players with Caps connections have been named to the German Olympic team. Kolzig, who holds a German passport, played for that country in the Nagano Olympics, in a World Cup and in the world championships.

Also named to the team were goalie Robert Muller, a 2001 Caps draftee who plays for Krefeld Pinguine in the German Elite League; center Stefan Ustorf, who played with Washington during the mid-1990s and now plays for Eisbaren Berlin; and right wing Jan Benda, a standout during the 1997 training camp who appeared in nine regular-season games before returning to Europe and now plays in Latvia.



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