When Tim Thomas signed with the Florida Panthers in the newly realigned Atlantic Division, it seemed inevitable that he’d get a shot against his former team the Boston Bruins at some point this season.
That point is Thursday night, actually: The Panthers announced that Thomas will return to the lineup for the first time since a groin injury felled him on Oct. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers, facing his former protégé Tuukka Rask and the Bruins.
Thomas played eight seasons with the Bruins, leading them to the 2011 Stanley Cup and winning the Conn Smythe for that effort. He won two Vezina trophies with the team as well, along with the 2009 Jennings Trophy he shared with former backup Manny Fernandez.
Thomas sat out the 2012-13 season for personal reasons -- stemming from his infamous snub of the White House when the B's visited there -- and his time with the Bruins officially ended when his cap hit was traded to the New York Islanders. He decided to return to the NHL last month, inking a 1-year contract with the Florida Panthers.
“If he’s there, we’ll just have to face him," Bruins coach Claude Julien said on Wednesday before the announcement. "If he’s not, then I don’t think the game is much different. Again, I can’t say enough about what he’s done for us here and for our hockey club. It’s time to turn the page and we’ve got Tuukka Rask now that our players love and think that he’s doing a fantastic job here."
In his first year as Bruins starter, Rask’s numbers were similar to those Thomas posted, and he helped backstop Boston the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
Said Rask after practice today, via the Bruins: "Never thought we'd play against each other but I'm glad he made his comeback."
So much like the Roberto Luongo/Cory Schneider showdown this month, we have another teacher facing a student, another unseated incumbent facing his insurgent backup.
It should be a memorable night … and Rask offered to make it more memorable, offering to fight Thomas during the game, according to Amaile Benjamin of the Boston Globe, who said “the media took him up on it.”
Who wins a goalie fight between Rask and Thomas?
The answer depends completely on whether we’re allowing weapons: Does Tuuk Nuke’em get to use a milk crate, and does Timmy get to wield a pole with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag attached to it?