Thomas in goal tonight for Panthers

BOSTON -- After a year-and-a-half off from playing in the NHL, former Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas will start for the Florida Panthers tonight against the Dallas Stars.

Thomas, 39, was invited to training camp on a professional tryout agreement and he recently signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. A two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion, Thomas’ last game in the NHL came on April 25, 2012, when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.

The common refrain around the Bruins is if there’s one player that can take 16 months off and still have success, then Thomas is that guy.

“Let’s not forget what he’s brought to our team in past years. He’s been a good soldier for us, he played well,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We can say what we want about all the other stuff that’s been written, but he’s a good athlete and for him to come back after being off for a year, at that age, and to be able to perform as he has so far, it’s pretty incredible for him. I’m happy for him. As a player, I know he was a bit of a different person as far as his thoughts, but it never affected me coaching him and not respecting the person.”

The Bruins will play the Panthers on Oct. 17 at Sunrise, Fla. Boston will host the Panthers on Nov. 7.