BOSTON — The Bruins will play their fourth exhibition game in Washington on Tuesday night, but goalie Tim Thomas is still waiting to see his first action of the preseason.
Thomas, who is recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, sat out each of the first three games and remained in Boston as the Bruins traveled to Washington on Tuesday.
Thomas has been practicing throughout camp but has not been cleared to play in games by the team's medical staff, and the veteran netminder admitted he still feels some discomfort in the hip while in goal.
"You can feel it, it's a big surgery and even if it's game-ready and at a point where you can play close to your highest level, I think you're going to feel it for a while," said Thomas after practice on Tuesday. "That's just the nature of these types of injuries. It's not like, 'Oh it's gone.' It will be there and it just takes your body a while to get used to doing the types of activities that you do playing hockey. There's nothing else in life really that puts your joints in the same positions as what happens when you're playing goal."
Bruins coach Claude Julien on Tuesday was optimistic that Thomas could be ready to play on Wednesday, when the Bruins host Washington in their final game before leaving for Europe.
"There's a good possibility that we'll see him play [Wednesday]," said Julien. "Again, I say good possibility. It depends on how [Tuesday] goes, and then there's [Wednesday]. If everything goes well, I think we'd like to see him in our lineup."
Thomas didn't sound quite so confident of returning that soon after his workout with the other 10 players who weren't traveling to Washington for Tuesday's game.
"It's a decision that hasn't completely been made yet," said Thomas. "I haven't been cleared by the doctors yet. That could happen [Tuesday night]. It could happen [Wednesday]. It's up to the doctors."
Thomas did admit that he would prefer to get some action against an NHL lineup like the Capitals in the preseason rather than waiting for the final exhibition games in Europe against the likes of the Belfast Giants and HC Liberec of the Czech League, but he also stressed that he wouldn't dwell too much on that because it's out of his control.
"I'm not really thinking about that," said Thomas. "It's not about what I want as far as that goes, it's about just working with the doctors. Until they tell me I can play, what does it matter what I want? I'm not looking that far ahead. I'm not thinking, 'I'd really like to play in a game before we go to Europe.' I'm more thinking of working with the doctors and letting them know how things are."
Figuring out exactly where he stands in the healing process is the toughest thing to judge right now.
"At this point, there's no physical test I have to pass," said Thomas. "It's just more me telling the doctors where I am. I have all the strength and flexibility that I need, it's just that the problem is in the joint, and there's no way they can test that.
"There is a medical timeline for this injury," added Thomas. "And I think that's playing a big factor here at the end. There's a specific amount of time that they know it takes a certain type of tissue to heal, so they're holding back until we've reached that amount of time."