DALLAS — New Dallas Stars goaltender Tim Thomas definitely realizes just how great it is to go from a team in the Florida Panthers that was treading water in the Eastern Conference to one like the Stars, who have a legitimate shot at making the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
"Yeah, I’m very excited to be here and to have the opportunity to play with another group of guys and to make the push for the playoffs here. It’s an exciting opportunity," Thomas said after morning skate on Thursday.
Thomas, 39, a former teammate of current Stars Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin in Boston who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011 as the NHL playoff MVP when the Bruins brought home the Cup, was acquired on Wednesday afternoon from Florida in a straight-up swap for Dan Ellis.
The ex-Bruin and Panther has been between the pipes long enough to know that no matter if he’s the starter or the backup, his goal every time he enters the crease remains quite simple.
"I’m pretty sure that my role is going to be that when they play me in a game, I stop as many as I can so the team can win. Really I try to keep it as simple as that," Thomas said.
And as someone who has played with other Finnish goaltenders in his career, like former Boston teammate Tuukka Rask, he knows he and new teammate Kari Lehtonen, currently the Stars’ No. 1 option in net, will get along quite well, even if he’s forgotten the few bits of Finnish he’s picked up over the years.
"I’ve partnered with Finnish goaltenders quite a few times over the course of my career and have always had great relationships with the Finns. I just really get along well with them for some reason," Thomas said. "So I’m looking forward to helping him (Lehtonen) to play his best when he’s playing and him helping me, pushing me in practice and in games."
Thomas also knows new teammate Erik Cole as the two were roommates at the World Championships in the past and he also knows Ray Whitney after meeting him at an NHLPA meeting over the summer.
Stars head coach Lindy Ruff has yet to sort out how he’ll determine how much Lehtonen and Thomas will play and in which games, saying that will be done on a game-to-game basis, but he knows that his club’s newest addition brings with him one asset that towers above all others.
"Well, the one thing we know is Tim’s a winner. He’s been able to do it and I think that brings a lot of credit to our club," Ruff said. "He gives us a guy that we know has done it under the top pressure situations and should buy some time for Lehts."
Thomas admits he’s energized by the change in scenery, saying that it’s exciting to know he has a legitimate shot at being on a playoff team again, especially after a year away from the game.
With Florida, he started 40 games but battled back from two separate groin injuries, but now that he has a clean bill of health and is ready to go, he is clearly intrigued by the possibilities his move to the Stars presents.
"I see a good team. I see a good team that I think should make that final playoff spot this year and has the potential to you know raise some eyebrows in the playoffs," Thomas said.