THOMAS LEAVES PRACTICE: Status for Friday v Capitals is Questionable

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The Panthers will host John Vanbiesbrouck and hand out thousands of bobbleheads (somewhat) in his likeness on Friday night.

The Beezer may just need to suit up.

Tim Thomas, Florida's current starting goalie, left practice early Thursday and didn't return.

Coach Peter Horachek said he didn't immediately know what Thomas' status was for Friday's game against the Capitals.

If Thomas is unavailable, Jacob Markstrom would be recalled from AHL San Antonio - the team is in Charlotte, N.C. - and possibly play against Washington.

Backup Scott Clemmensen played well in Florida's 3-2 shootout loss to the host Capitals on Nov. 2 but said Thursday he had not been told anything.

"I don't know what the issue was, whether it was equipment or it was him,'' Horachek said of Thomas. "He just said he had to go. .-.-. That's where we are.''

Thomas has missed time on two separate occasions this season with what is thought to be groin injuries. Thomas missed four games when he first got hurt in Florida's third game of the season in Philadelphia on Oct. 8, then missed six games when he got hurt on Oct. 22.

Thomas has started 14 of the past 15 games since his return on Nov. 9 at Ottawa and has nine of Florida's 10 wins this season.

Markstrom got the other win in Florida's home opener against Pittsburgh.

-- Vanbiesbrouck will be the first former player honored with a bobblehead as the team celebrates its 20th anniversary season.

"It's hard to believe time goes by so fast,'' said Vanbiesbrouck, who played for Florida from 1993-98.

Florida will have six such giveaways this season, with Pavel Bure (Jan. 24), Thomas (March 9), GM Dale Tallon (March 14) and Scott Mellanby (March 16) also honored.

Brian Skrudland, the team's first captain who is currently an assistant coach, said he's looking forward to his first bobblehead. That will be the final such giveaway of the season on April 4.

"If they wanted to make it like me, they would make the mouth move and not just the head,'' Skrudland said. "Anytime you get recognized like this is an honor. I don't care if it's a bobblehead or a beer label.''



When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise

TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560

The series: Washington leads 56-44-9

Scouting report: The Capitals have won three straight games and got four goals from Alex Ovechkin in Tuesday's 6-5 overtime win against the visiting Lightning. Washington has won 10 of the past 11 against the Panthers. The two were division rivals until this season.