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TIM THOMAS RETURNS FOR BRUINS: Florida Panthers Face Defending East Champs Tonight

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Tim Thomas will make what he hopes is a triumphant return to the Panthers net tonight when the Panthers play host to the Bruins.

"It's a good thing, a good storyline and it's exciting for our team to have Tim in net,'' Dineen said after this morning's skate in Sunrise. "He's been out for a week and I think you always get excited to play your old team. I get excited when we play the Whalers. No, it's a good thing.''

The Panthers raised some eyebrows Wednesday when they tweeted that Thomas would be in goal against his former team.

Dineen said today that he had nothing to do with that tweet -- as we expected -- although he wasn't against it.

"That was the first time someone else announced who would start and you know what? I'm excited,'' Dineen said. "Our fanbase, to see Tim, I think there's a great buzz coming out of New England as he faces his former team. There's no problems with me there.''

Dineen knows the Panthers have been selling this game for weeks and need Thomas in net to sell more tickets.

That said, Dineen said Thomas wouldn't be in there if he wasn't healthy.

"I wouldn't play him if he wasn't [100 percent],'' Dineen said. "He had two good practices with the team, worked on the ice when we were in Nashville. He's ready to go.''

The Panthers have been pulling out all the stops in trying to get more Boston fans in the building. Although team president Michael Yormark tweeted "support your cats tonight .-.-. We need you there," this morning, the team is obviously pandering to Boston fans to fill the arena.

The team not only has a three-game 'Tim Thomas Pack' which includes tickets to both Boston games this season, but the team will put tonight's Red Sox-Tigers playoff game on televisions throughout the concourse.

NHL games, as well as the Heat preseason game and the Hurricanes' game in North Carolina, will be available in Club Red and in the Duffy's bar atop the arena.

Thomas left Florida's game in Philadelphia last week with a slight groin pull. Thomas didn't practice the following Wednesday in Tampa but has been on the ice since. He didn't travel to Nashville but stayed behind and continued to workout.

Thomas told the Panthers PR staff on Wednesday that he wouldn't be talking to the media until postgame tonight.

That didn't prevent a large crush of media from descending on the Panthers locker room this morning. Tim Thomas taking on the Bruins is a big deal in South Florida, Boston -- and beyond.

"Everyone has to step it up tonight, this one is going to be on the highlight reel,'' Scottie Upshall said.

"We have to play well defensively for him. If we play good defense and do simple things, he's going to look good and we're going to look good. We're playing one of the best teams in the league. Hopefully we have a good outcome.''

-- Dineen said the Panthers would continue to carry three goalies at least through tonight before deciding what to do. Scott Clemmensen could be back in San Antonio if Thomas looks sharp out there tonight.

Jacob Markstrom will be tonight's backup with Clemmensen sitting this one out.

-- There was an incorrect report out there this morning stating that defenseman Ed Jovanovski had been taken off the injured list. Jovanovski says he hopes to be back in the next few weeks.

-- Upshall said it sucked to be a healthy scratch against Nashville on Tuesday and that he thinks he needs to become "a pest." Upshall is back in the lineup tonight with Krys Barch and Ryan Whitney apparently the scratches.

"My play warranted being a healthy scratch,'' said Upshall, who had an assist in the season opener. "I have to come out tonight and be the best player on the ice. That's what they expect. The coaches want me to be an impact player and I haven't been. I feel great.''

Photo via floridapanthers.com

 

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Whitney sitting because of poor play?

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