Tim Thomas Expected in Net Again As Bruins Open West Coast Trip in San Jose

The Bruins open a rare late-season West Coast swing in San Jose on Thursday night, facing a Sharks team battling to get back into playoff position.

The Sharks have lost two straight, falling to Anaheim and Los Angeles earlier this week. The Bruins will complete their three-game trip with games against the Kings and Ducks this weekend, but first must deal with the Sharks, who are battling with Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles for the Pacific Division title. Those teams, plus Colorado and Calgary, are also vying for the final two playoff spots in the West, with all six teams within three points of each other.

“I know they’re in a battle for a playoff spot,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters in San Jose. “This is a good team across the ice here. We’ve gone through the same situation of really struggling to find our game and eventually when you do, you see what kind of team you really are. And I think it’s a matter of them doing the same thing. Right now, our focus is not to let them have that happen against us. Let them do it against somebody else, but we have to be ready and be in a fighting mode here.”

The Bruins, meanwhile, are looking to maintain their lead on Ottawa in the Northeast Division. The Bruins are up three points on the Senators with Boston having two games in hand.

Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate in San Jose and is expected to appear in his 14th straight game for the Bruins. He’s coming off his first shutout since Dec. 17, but needed to make just 13 saves in Monday’s 8-0 win over Toronto.

Rich Peverley skated with the team in the morning and is getting closer to returning from a knee injury that’s sidelined him since Feb. 15, but Julien has already ruled him out for this game. After beating the Leafs so handily, no lineup changes are expected for the Bruins, which would leave Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau and Trent Whitfield as the healthy scratches.

Antti Niemi is expected to get the start in goal for San Jose. It will be Niemi’s 13th straight start, though he’s allowed four goals in each of his last two appearances, getting pulled after 30 minutes against the Kings.

Michal Handzus is expected to return for the Sharks after missing the last six games with a lower-body injury. Tommy Wingels could also return from an upper-body injury that has sidelined him for five games, but his status is more questionable.

Denis LaRue and Greg Kimmerly will be the referees, with Jay Sharrers and Vaughan Rody working the lines.

Projected Bruins lines

Forwards
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jordan Caron
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton 

Defense
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon-Adam McQuaid 

Goalies
Tim Thomas
Marty Turco

Scratches: Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee), Tuukka Rask (groin), Mike Mottau, Joe Corvo, Trent Whitfield

Projected Sharks lines

Forwards
Logan Couture-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski
Ryan Clowe-Patrick Marleau-Martin Havlat
Dominic Moore-Michal Handzus-Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester-Andrew Desjardins-Daniel Winnik 

Defense
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray-Brent Burns
Colin White-Jason Demers 

Goalies
Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Scratches: Jim Vandermeer, TJ Galiardi (upper body), Tommy Wingels (upper body), Justin Braun, Benn Ferriero

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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