It seemed inevitable that when Tim Thomas signed with the Florida Panthers, he’d eventually face his old team, the Boston Bruins.
On Wednesday, it was made official: Thomas, the 39-year-old puck stopper, will start for Panthers when they face the Bruins on Thursday.
The evening event, previous in doubt when Thomas was recently felled by a groin injury, is sure to bring back fond memories for both sides.
Thomas was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2011, when he backstopped the Bruins to their Stanley Cup championship over the Vancouver Canucks in a seven-game series.
“As a teammate he was everything you would want as far as coming to play every night, and bringing that competitive edge all the time,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic told CSNNE.com.
“I won’t say anything bad about him. I got to spend five years with him and got to see the best level that any goalie played at in those five years. That’s the most you could ask from your goaltender. He was a big part of us winning.”
For his part, Thomas will not speak to the media until after Thursday’s game.
Tomorrow night’s Boston-Florida game will be a special one.
The Panthers have announced that Tim Thomas will return from a four-game absence (groin) and start on Thursday against the Bruins, the team he backstopped to the 2011 Stanley Cup.
Thomas, 39, hasn’t played since allowing two goals on five shots in just over seven minutes of action against Philadelphia last week.
He left with a groin injury, sat out the following four games (during which backup Jacob Markstrom went 1-3-0 and allowed 16 goals) but is now apparently fit enough to participate in what promises to be a compelling game.
Thomas appeared in nearly 400 regular season contests and 50 playoff games for the Bruins, emerging as one of the best netminders in franchise history.
He made four All-Star games and captured two Vezinas, a Jennings and Conn Smythe Trophy — joining Bobby Orr as the only Bruin to ever win playoff MVP.
Related: Thomas won’t talk to media ’til after Bruins-Panthers game (Updated)
Boston is 3-2-0 thus far with 12 goals scored — not a bad start to the season, but certainly not great.
Just ask the GM.
“We’re missing the net a lot,” Peter Chiarelli told the Boston Herald following Monday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit. “We’re not making the plays we should be making.”
Chiarelli explained that while he’s “OK” with his team’s start to the season — saying he likes the effort, personnel and puck movement — there is concern about the club’s inability to score goals.
Through five games, Boston sits 25th in 5-on-5 goals (seven), 25th in 5-on-4 goals (two) and 20th in goals per game (2.40).
“I think we’re squeezing our sticks,” Chiarelli explained. “We’re getting a lot of chances. Our scoring will come. We are getting a lot of looks.”
One of the prime culprits for Boston’s lack of goals is Jarome Iginla. The 36-year-old winger leads the team with 19 shots on goal and is playing heavy minutes — 21:13 against Detroit on Monday — but has yet to find the back of the net.
Iginla is trying to stay positive, but admits the scoring drought is frustrating.
“I think it’s probably just being a little too anxious,” he told CSNNE. “[I’m] just lifting my head up. You want to get that goal for the team, and just get one, and get feeling it. At times you squeeze a little too hard, it’s all those clichés and sayings you hear.
“You try to swing a little too hard and lift [your] head a little bit. [I’m] just not in a grove there where you just want to kind of will it into the net as opposed to letting it happen.”
Things promised to get interesting in Florida on Wednesday as the Panthers prepped for Thursday’s game against the Bruins.
Today would’ve marked Tim Thomas’ first reunion with the Boston media since his abrupt hockey sabbatical — but, apparently, it’ll have to wait.
According to multiple reports out of Florida, Thomas won’t meet with the media until after Thursday’s game, this despite the fact he returned to practice on Monday and was back out again this morning taking shots.
Thomas, 39, hasn’t played since leaving last week’s 2-1 loss to Philadelphia after surrendering both goals on five shots in just over seven minutes of action.
Thomas tweaked his groin against the Flyers, got shelved and subsequently missed Florida’s last four games. Young netminder Jacob Markstrom allowed 16 goals in relief of Thomas, including six on 24 shots in a 7-2 whitewash at the hands of Tampa Bay.
So, it stands to reason Thomas could be back in goal on Thursday to face the Bruins, only adding to the intrigue.
Update 2:45 p.m. ET
According to CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty, Panthers PR confirmed Thomas won’t speak until after Thursday’s game.
Haggerty also notes that, during his final season in Boston, Thomas adopted a policy of not speaking to reporters the morning of games — but extending that policy to the day before games is something new.
The Boston Bruins took first blood against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 5 in the first contest of their Atlantic Division rivalry. Today it was the Red Wings’ turn to strike back.
Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, and Daniel Cleary each found the back of the net for Detroit en route to a 3-2 victory.
Jimmy Howard was originally scheduled to play between the pipes against the Bruins, but he was held out of the game due to a bruised hand, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan. He might be start on Tuesday instead, but backup Jonas Gustavsson was more than capable of holding his own today.
Gustavsson was plagued by injury problems last season and missed the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign due to a groin issue. This was his season debut and he turned aside 28 shots to pick up his first win since March 25.
Boston made things interesting when Milan Lucic netted his 100th career goal with just 1:20 minutes left in regulation time, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
Detroit improved to 4-2-0 ahead of tomorrow’s contest against Columbus. The Bruins will get a few days off before starting a three-game road trip in Florida on Thursday.