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B's season might be goalie's best save
By TOM JONES
Published February 19, 2006
The man who might save the Boston Bruins season isn't even listed in their media guide. In fact, he is not listed in any current media guide for any NHL team.
Goalie Tim Thomas has seemingly come out of nowhere to put the Bruins' season back on track. Now here's something you might not know. He didn't come from nowhere. Just a few years ago, you could have seen him working out in Brandon with the Lightning.
Thomas, 31, is the definition of a journeyman. He played four seasons at the University of Vermont where he was a teammate of Lightning star Marty St. Louis. He was a ninth-round pick by the then-Quebec Nordiques in 1994, but never stuck. Since then, he has toiled in goal in Finland and Sweden, played a lot of minor-league hockey and drifted in and out of the Bruins organization.
His ties to the Lightning started when he was invited to training camp in 1999 by former GM Rick Dudley and former coach Steve Ludzik. Thomas played well during the preseason, but was shipped to the minor-league Detroit Vipers. Even though the Lightning struggled to find a goalie that season with six ( Dan Cloutier, Zac Bierk, Kevin Hodson, Rich Parent, Dieter Kochan and Daren Puppa) playing at least five games each, Thomas never got the call to the bigs.
He eventually drifted back to Europe and then hung around the Bruins organization for a couple of seasons. When the Bruins were hurting for goalies in mid September, they signed him merely as insurance.
Turns out, they needed him. With injuries to former Calder Cup winner Andrew Raycroft and rookie Hannu Toivonen, the Bruins threw their diminishing playoff hopes on the shoulders of Thomas. He started the 15 games before the Olympic break, went 8-3-4 with a 2.17 goals-against average and took the Bruins off the endangered-species list.
When Thomas made his first start on Jan. 14, the Bruins were 13th in the Eastern Conference with 38 points and nine points out of a playoffs spot. Now they are tied for 10th in the conference with 58 points and only two points out of a playoff spot.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: For the record, there are 150 NHL players in the Olympics. The Dallas Stars have the most with 10. The Red Wings and Rangers each have nine.
Of the 12 teams in the tournament, only Canada and the United States have rosters made up entirely of NHL players. Kazakhstan and Latvia have the fewest with two each.
TROUBLE IN T.O.: There are tons of rumors flying around the Maple Leafs. One maintains that they are just waiting until the Winter Games are over to fire coach Pat Quinn, who is coaching Team Canada, and trade star center Mats Sundin.
Neither is going to happen. At least not this season.
Next season could be a different story. The popular theory is Quinn will be replaced by former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, who is coaching Toronto's top minor-league affiliate the Marlies.
Also, we're not buying other blockbuster rumors involving Darcy Tucker, Eric Lindros and Tomas Kaberle. One rumor that does make sense is the Leafs sending forward Nik Antropov to the Blackhawks for center Tyler Arnason, but the Leafs might have to throw in something else to make it work.
MORE HOT STOVE STUFF: Look for general managers to start wheeling and dealing when the NHL returns from the break.
The biggest move could involve St. Louis star Keith Tkachuk. Several teams, including the Devils, Flyers and Senators, are believed to have interest. The Devils are going to do something big because they have plenty of room under the salary cap.
Don't be surprised if the Oilers pursue Phoenix goalie Curtis Joseph.
The one name resurfacing in Lightning trade rumors is Washington defenseman Brendan Witt.