When Tim Thomas leads his teammates onto the ice tonight at American Airlines Center, it will have been 12 days since he last stopped a puck in game action. Not a bad rest for the NHL's top goalie.

The schedule - just four games since Dec. 19, with a three-day holiday break built in - has allowed the 37-year-old to enjoy his longest breather of the season. But Thomas's partner has been just as significant a reason the No. 1 goalie has watched two of his team's last three wins.

Most of the league's elite goalies must assume the vast majority of their clubs' starts. Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Pekka Rinne each have appeared in 30 or more games. Because of the gulf between the play of such aces and their backups, their respective coaches have little choice but to keep calling their names in search of two points.