MIAMI (AP) — Tim Thomas won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
A year later, he needed a break.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is back with the Florida Panthers, and he’ll get his first crack against his former team Thursday night.
Thomas, 39, spent his first eight NHL seasons with Boston, becoming just the second American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading the Bruins to the Cup three years ago.
He followed up that superb run by going 35-19-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and five shutouts in 2011-12, but decided to sit out the next season to spend time with his family.
The Bruins then traded him to the New York Islanders for a conditional draft pick, but he never appeared for them before signing with Florida as a free agent last month.
“I don’t think it’s anything different than playing against guys that you’ve traded,” coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve traded some players that were really popular on our team. You gotta turn the page, and we gotta do the same thing here with Timmy. Timmy has a new career here going on Florida, and we’ve got our own that we’ve got to take care of.
“It’s more about putting the past aside for this game, and looking forward to doing the job we came here for, and that’s winning a hockey game.”
Thomas may have extra motivation to keep that from happening, but he’s lost two of three starts with the Panthers (2-5-0) with a 5.02 GAA. A groin injury forced him to exit his most recent game early after giving up two goals on five shots in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 8.
His return will also likely come opposite his former understudy – Tuukka Rask.
“Never thought that we would play against each other,” said Rask, who helped Boston to last season’s Stanley Cup finals. “I’m glad he’s made his comeback, and proved people wrong again.”
The Bruins’ power play could make this reunion an enjoyable one for Thomas.
The unit is among the worst in the league, going 2 for 19 while failing to convert on 12 chances over the past three games. Boston went 0 for 5 in Monday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit, wasting a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes early in the third period.
Last season, the Bruins (3-2-0) ranked 26th with at 14.8 percent success rate on the power play.
The addition of Jarome Iginla was an attempt to address that, but he’s still looking for his first goal of 2013-14. Of his 14 goals and 19 assists with Calgary and Pittsburgh last season, six of each came on the power play.
“You go through it,” Iginla said of his goal drought. “Sometimes it frustrates you and you do a little too much. There’s no excuse. I’ve been through it before.”
Iginla has two goals in 11 career visits to Florida, and he hasn’t scored in his last five meetings at any venue versus the Panthers.
Jonathan Huberdeau, the NHL’s reigning Calder Trophy winner, isn’t having any such issues for the Panthers. The left wing has three goals over the past four games, but Florida has only one win in that stretch.
That was the case again Tuesday, when the Panthers fell 4-3 at Nashville.
Huberdeau was held without a point in all three meetings against the Bruins last season, with the Panthers losing each by a combined 11-2 score.
Thomas will try to be the difference this time.
“All those years of shooting on him in practice, it’ll be fun to finally shoot on him during a game. I’m sure he’s looking forward to it as well,” said Boston’s Milan Lucic, who has a goal in each of the last two games.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)