Rask rooting for Thomas' comeback with Panthers

Rask rooting for Thomas' comeback with Panthers
September 18, 2013, 10:45 pm
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Tuukka Rask, right, is hoping Tim Thomas lands a job with the Panthers so he can face his former mentor.

(AP Photo)

Tuukka Rask couldn’t help but smile thinking about what it would be like the first time he goes head-to-head against Tim Thomas as a member of the Florida Panthers. Needless to say, Rask won’t be posting on Facebook about it.

“That will be a media debacle going if that happens,” said the B’s netminder, with a smile on his face. “I said before that I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens, and I’m hoping he makes the team, gets a good contract and has a good season to go along with it.

“If he wants to be good then he will be good. I think there’s any doubt about that. He’s a guy that will make it happen.”

There’s no question it will make for an interesting narrative if Thomas succeeds in his tryout with Florida, and then squares off against his B’s apprentice who has now taken over in Boston. The 39-year-old goalie even admitted that watching the Bruins run to the Cup Final last season is one of the things that recharged his batteries for an NHL comeback.

Now, the Panthers are bringing Thomas in to stop some pucks, and also to act as something of a mentor to young Florida netminder Jakob Markstrom. It’s a similar dynamic to the Thomas/Rask partnership that developed in Boston, and Markstrom would do well to simply observe what goes on around him.

Still, they’re also presumably getting a two-time Vezina Trophy winning goaltender and Conn Smythe playoff hero for short money, so there are plenty of good reasons for things to work out between Thomas and Florida.

“He’s a great worker. He works hard every day. That’s the point every goalie should take away from him,” said Rask. “Markstrom has been around for a few years, but if he wants to take something away from his goalie then that should be it.

“He makes you work harder every day. That’s what I get out of it, and that’s what any goalie that works with him should get out of it.”

Rask is just happy to see his friend back playing the game of hockey after reconnecting with friends, faith and family, and full of admiration for the goaltender he formed a tandem with in Boston for three seasons.

“Obviously he was here for a while, and he had a good and deep relationship with a lot of the players here. So I’m sure he was a little emotional seeing us in the Final last year,” said Rask. “He felt the itch, I bet, when he watched us playing and making that run again after he was such a big part a couple years ago.

“If he didn’t think about hockey at all during the year and just totally cleared his mind, then I’m sure he’ll be coming into this year totally fresh,” said Rask.

One thing is for certain: the arrival of Thomas in Florida has suddenly added a lot more spice and local interest to all those Atlantic Division matchups between the Panthers and Bruins this season.