BOSTON (CBS) – Thursday is a day many Boston Bruins never thought would come.
It’s the day Tim Thomas will be in net against his former team.
Thomas will be back in goal for the Florida Panthers on Thursday night as they host the Bruins, his first start against the team he led to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011.
“All those years shooting on him in practice, I think it’ll be fun to finally shoot on him in a game. I’m sure he’s looking forward to it as well,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m sure he’s happy to be back in the NHL playing and he’s found a new home here in Florida.”
“I never thought that we would play against each other,” said Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. “But I’m glad that he made his comeback and proved people wrong again, and I hope he does well.”
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Rask was behind Thomas on the Boston depth chart in 2011 and watched in awe as he posted a 2.00 goals against average and stopped 94-percent of the shots that went his way, en route to his second Vezina Trophy with the Bruins. Thomas then took his game to another level, posting a 1.98 GAA and four shutouts in the playoffs as he guided Boston to a Stanley Cup title and a Conn Smythe Award for himself.
But issues followed that magical season. Thomas skipped out on the team’s trip to the White House in 2012, and then decided to take last year off. He still had a year left on his contract with Boston, but chose to sit out what would be a lockout-shortened season to be with family.
That paved the way for Rask to step in full-time last season, and bring the Bruins back to another Stanley Cup Final. Now, the two will be on opposite ends of the ice with both of their teams eager for a “W.”
Rask said he wasn’t sure if he’ll get a chance to talk to Thomas, but he did offer a little joke over the media frenzy that will precede, and follow, Thursday night’s game.
“Maybe we’ll fight or something,” Rask joked.
Thomas chose not to speak to the media on Wednesday and won’t be talking ahead of Thursday’s game either. He’s just returning after missing a week with a groin injury, and is looking to get back on track between the pipes. After making 25 saves in Florida’s season-opening 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars, Thomas has struggled in his two games since, allowing seven goals on 33 shot attempts. Thomas hasn’t seen game-action since allowing two goals on five shots in a loss to the Flyers, a game he left with the groin injury.
But for Boston, the focus won’t just be on beating a former teammate. After going 1-2 in their last three games, the B’s are focused on getting a win.
“You lose players like that, that were well respected and liked in the dressing room, and you have to turn the page,” said head coach Claude Julian. “We have to do the same thing here with Timmy.”
“Timmy’s got a new career here going on with Florida and we’ve got our own that we have to take care of. So it’s more about putting the past aside for this game and looking forward to doing the job that we came here for, and that’s winning a hockey game,” added Julien.
“We’re one game over .500 now and I think we just want to improve that record and it doesn’t matter if it’s against Timmy or whoever,” said Rask. “We just want to win the game.”
While Thomas will get his first meeting with his former team out of the way on Thursday, he still has to make a few trips back to Boston. The Panthers play the Bruins at the TD Garden three times this season, and Thomas will make his first return to Boston on November 7.
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