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Thomas set to face former team as Panthers host Bruins

(SportsNetwork.com) - Tuukka Rask had a first-hand look at how important Tim Thomas was to the Boston Bruins franchise.

Rask and the Bruins will face their former teammate on Thursday night, when Thomas is expected to start for the Florida Panthers against visiting Boston.

Thomas, a former ninth-round pick by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 draft, signed as a free agent with the Bruins in 2002 and made his NHL debut with the club that season, appearing in four games. He eventually became the No. 1 goaltender with the Bruins and went 196-121-45 in 378 regular-season games with the club.

The 39-year-old also posted a postseason record of 29-21 in 50 games with the Bruins, logging a 2.07 goals against average and .933 save percentage. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011 after helping lead Boston to its first Stanley Cup title since 1972.

Thomas, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, played one more season with the Bruins before sitting out the lockout-shortened campaign. He became a free agent this past offseason and appeared in training camp with the Panthers on a professional tryout before signing a one-year deal just before the start of the season.

Thomas has made three appearances with the Panthers, allowing nine goals on 60 shots faced. However, he has not played since exiting last Tuesday's game versus Philadelphia early with a groin injury.

He is expected to play tonight, per Florida's official twitter account.

"All those years shooting on him in practice and what not, I think it'll be fun to finally shoot on him in a game and I'm sure he's looking forward to it as well," said Boston's Milan Lucic. "I'm sure he's happy to be back in the NHL playing and he's found a new home here in Florida."

Thomas' year off allowed Rask to grab hold of Boston's starting goaltender job after he spent the majority of his career backing up the former since being acquired from Toronto on June 24, 2006.

Rask went 19-10-5 with a 9.29 GAA in 36 games last season, helping the Bruins get to the Stanley Cup Finals.

"I never thought that we would play against each other. But I'm glad that he made his comeback and proved people wrong again, and I hope he does well," said the 26-year-old Rask, who is 7-1-0 with a 0.86 GAA, .972 save percentage and three shutouts lifetime versus the Panthers.

Boston will play three straight on the road after opening the season with four of five at home and lost for the second time in its past three games with Monday's 3-2 setback to Detroit.

Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic tallied for the Bruins, while Rask made 24 saves.

"We're really struggling with our finish right now. The chances are there but goals are not coming easy," noted Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

The Panthers, meanwhile, begin a six-game homestand and have lost five of seven to begin the season. They were last in action on Tuesday, a 4-3 setback to Nashville.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Marcel Goc and Matt Gilroy netted goals in the loss, while Jacob Markstrom surrendered all four goals on 30 shots.

"We did some good things tonight with our forecheck and creating turnovers," said Huberdeau. "We can look to build on that for our next game and get some of our mistakes straightened out."

The Bruins won all three of their meetings with the Panthers a season ago, outscoring them 11-2. They have won nine of the last 11 encounters overall and six of the past seven in Florida.

10/17 11:05:41 ET

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Schedule

Wednesday, April 16Full Scoreboard
Montreal 4/16 7:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay @theRink | TV: CNBC, CBC, RDS, SunSports
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
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Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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DUR
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PHO
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MON
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PIT
CLB
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ANA
DAL
7:05pm Tonight
DUR
NOR