Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers’ Tim Thomas is in line to start against his former team

The unusual follows Panthers goalie Tim Thomas.

Take Wednesday, when the Panthers, who keep the identity of their next starting goalie a closely guarded secret, announced via Twitter that Thomas would start Thursday night against Boston. Then, that tweet was replaced by one just declaring Thomas would “play.” Meanwhile, the Panthers put a page up on their website declaring “TIM THOMAS VS. TUUKKA RASK” for Thursday’s game.

The only other time the Panthers gave up that information: when Panthers coach Kevin Dineen chose Thomas to start the season opener and said it would be the first and last time he would announce that.

Stating Thomas would play came about two hours after Dineen declared Thomas “questionable” for the game and said the Panthers would keep Thomas, second-year goalie Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen all on the roster “as long as needed. It can change daily. Right now, we’ve got the three and all reliable options for [Thursday].”

Of course, neither Markstrom nor Clemmensen started in goal for Boston when the Bruins ended their 39-year Stanley Cup drought in 2011. Nor were they the subject of the Panthers’ promotional “Tim Thomas 3-pack” that combined tickets to Thursday’s game, the March 9 home game against Boston, one other game and a chance to meet Thomas.

“I know it would have a significance for him and I think their team realizes that,” Dineen said of Thomas facing Boston. “Our team will as well.”

Thomas missed Tuesday’s loss in Nashville with a groin injury he sustained last week against Philadelphia.

The Cup and Thomas’ subsequent sabbatical after the 2011-12 season brought more than the normal attention.

“I was living in New England when the Bruins won their Stanley Cup. He’s a big part of New England culture for a lot of years,” Dineen said. “That’s not easily forgotten. That was the first cup in a long, long time. He has his fingerprints all over that. That’ll certainly be of interest to Boston and New England. It’s not just Boston. There’s about four states up there that have large interest.”

Boston media members showing up at Panthers practice to talk to Thomas left when the Panthers announced Thomas, who feuded at times with Bruins beat writers, would not be speaking until Thursday before the game.

Then, the Panthers announced Thomas would not comment publicly until after Thursday’s game.

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