Report: Thomas likely to sign once Panthers sale is final

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It’s possible that two landmark moments might happen for the Florida Panthers in the same week, if not day or two, as TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Tim Thomas is expected to sign with the team once the franchise sale is complete.

Word circulated on Tuesday that the ownership change might be announced on Friday, yet Dreger states that it’s possible that the 39-year-old might make his preseason debut on Thursday.

To put it mildly, his work should be fascinating to watch in 2013-14.

Certainly, there are big reasons to believe things won’t go well. He no longer plays in Boston, which means no more Zdeno Chara cleaning things up; as offensively gifted as Brian Campbell is, Florida doesn’t employ a defenseman in Chara’s zip code. Just as importantly, the unorthodox goalie missed a full season of NHL action, so it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s rusty.

Still, it would be foolish to assume that Thomas can’t overcome long odds. He’s done so just about his entire career.

Not many award-winning goalies get their first real shots at NHL reps in their early 30’s, yet Thomas has two Vezina Trophies, one Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe to his name.

Even his “bad” years have been pretty good, aside from a mediocre 2006-07 season (.905 save percentage, 30-29-4 record).

This Panthers team isn’t going to scare many people on paper, but Thomas ranks among the handful of goalies who might be able to make them pesky again.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.