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Thomas to face former team as Panthers host Bruins

by Brian Hunter /

BRUINS (3-2-0) at PANTHERS (2-5-0)


Season series: First of five meetings between these new Atlantic Division rivals. The Boston Bruins swept three games from the Florida Panthers last season and outscored them 11-2 in the process. Tuukka Rask recorded a 28-save shutout in the most recent matchup on April 21.

Big story: Goaltender Tim Thomas will return from a groin injury sustained Oct. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers to face the team he led to a Stanley Cup title in 2011. The Panthers made the announcement Wednesday afternoon. Thomas won 196 games and a pair of Vezina trophies during eight seasons with the Bruins. He added 29 postseason wins and won the Conn Smythe Trophy after Boston defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

Team Scope:

Bruins: Rask could be due for a night off soon, but new backup Chad Johnson might have to sit and wait a while longer with Boston's No. 1 in net having given up just seven goals in five starts.

After starting the season with four straight one-goal-against efforts, Rask finally let multiple pucks past him Monday afternoon in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Still, that was more the result of defensive breakdowns in front of him, including a turnover by Patrice Bergeron that led to a highlight-reel Pavel Datsyuk-to-Henrik Zetterberg goal to open the scoring.

"We didn't score goals," defenseman Torey Krug said. "That's what we're judged on. They can say we had great puck movement, but that doesn't matter because our job is to score goals and get momentum for our team. They did a good job of blocking shots. I had a few that were blocked myself and I got to do a better job of getting pucks to the net. We got to score goals."

Panthers: This is the start of a six-game homestand for Florida, which has dropped five of six after a season-opening win. Jacob Markstrom, expected to be the No. 1 until Thomas signed in training camp, has manned the net for the past four games, posting a 3.60 goals-against average and .882 save percentage.

Against the Predators, the Panthers held their own into the third period before a pair of goals in the first 5:13 allowed Nashville to open up a two-goal advantage. Matt Gilroy's first goal with the Panthers drew them within one, but Pekka Rinne shut the door from there.

"We had some chances at 4-3," said Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored Florida's first goal. "We missed some chances at the end. Markstrom kept us in it. You have to take the positives from this game. We had a good effort. … We had some lines clicking. We just have to be better defensively to help Markstrom."

Who's hot: Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic have goals in consecutive games for the Bruins. … Huberdeau has three goals in the Panthers' past four games.

Injury report: Bruins forward Carl Soderberg (leg) is practicing and getting closer to his season debut. … Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) is on injured reserve. Forward Sean Bergenheim (abdomen) is expected to miss another week. Forward Steven Pinizzotto (hip) is also sidelined.

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