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Former Sabres "French Connection" member Martin dies

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rick Martin, part of the Buffalo Sabres' high-scoring "French Connection" during the 1970s, has died at the age of 59, the team said on Sunday.

Martin was a member of the heralded line that led Buffalo to their maiden Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1975, only their fifth season in the NHL.

"Rick was not only one of the greatest players in franchise history, he was a great friend to the Sabres organization and the entire community," the Sabres said in a statement.

Martin, who teamed up with fellow French-Canadian forwards Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert to form the French Connection line, had 384 goals and 701 points in 685 regular season games over an 11-season career with Buffalo and Los Angeles.

The seven-time All-Star was joined by his former linemates in front of a cheering crowd at Buffalo's HSBC Arena last month to welcome new Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

The retired numbers of all three players hang together in the rafters inside the HSBC Arena.

The Sabres did not give a cause of death but The Buffalo News reported Martin had suffered a heart attack while driving.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ed Osmond)