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Panthers will keep playing Team USA candidate Thomas ‘a lot’

Nov 28, 2013, 5:06 PM EDT

timthomassadgetty Getty Images

Tim Thomas has started 10 straight games since Peter Horachek took over for Kevin Dineen as the head coach in Florida and, if Horachek has his way, that number could double before another goalie gets a shot.

“He is the strength back there. He’s our best penalty killer. He’s an important factor,” Horachek told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The fact that he’s playing all the time is just because we need to keep pushing forward.

“We’re going to utilize him a lot.”

All things considered, Thomas has been impressive after a year-long NHL sabbatical. The Panthers are bad and he missed extensive time early with a groin injury, but has still managed to post a 6-8-1 record with a .909 save percentage and 2.75 GAA. The 39-year-old had arguably his finest outing of the season in a 3-1 win over Philly on Monday — stopping 38 of 39 shots — and has helped the Panthers secure points in four of their last six games.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported Thomas had played well enough to make USA Hockey’s shortlist of six goalies for the 2014 Olympics, along with Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, Cory Schneider, Ben Bishop and Jonathan Quick.

As such, Horachek’s remarks about maximizing Thomas’ workload become quite interesting. It sounds as though he’ll have numerous opportunities to both showcase himself and knock off any lingering rust from his time away from the game, which would be two big pluses for his Olympic candidacy.

“He’s a difference-maker,” Horacek said. “The fact that he could take a year off and come back and play shows what kind of goaltender he is.”

  1. jtshafer - Nov 28, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    Thomas had been the only reason we’ve (panthers) have been staying afloat.

    • logicalcomment - Nov 28, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      7-14-5 is staying afloat ?

      it must be sad to be a panters fan!

      • logicalcomment - Nov 28, 2013 at 9:28 PM

        panthers !!!!

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Nov 29, 2013 at 1:50 AM

        Being the Panthers were 3-9-4 when Dineen was fired, they are playing close to .500 hockey with 3 of the 5 losses since Horachek took over were 1 goal losses including 1 in a shootout. Do you thin it is coincidence that since Horachek took over, Thomas has started every game in that span and again is playing close to .500 hockey. If you look at who they’ve played, it isn’t the Buffalo’s of the NHL. They have beaten the Ducks and Avalanche who towards the top of the Western Conference. Their one goal losses have also come against Minnesota (who was hot at the time) and the Rangers both on the road.

  2. LampyB - Nov 28, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Would love to see Thomas fully regain form and take the reigns for team USA. if he can get back to where he was with the Bruins USA can’t lose!!!

  3. slaugin - Nov 28, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    As a Bruins fan, I’m rooting for Timmy

  4. chonchko - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    (Both) Rangers game(s) aside, he’s been pretty lights out for the Panthers as of late. It’s amazing how he’s playing for a much different (and much worse) team than he was in Boston, yet he’s still able to keep them in games on a very consistent basis.

    He’s definitely putting to rest the theory that it was Boston’s D making him look good…

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