Panthers coach Peter Horachek changed his mind and decided to start Scott Clemmensen in goal tonight against the Detroit Red Wings to give Tim Thomas another day to recover fully from a groin strain that will now keep him out of seven straight games.

Thomas hasn’t played since winning two games in four days against the Red Wings on Dec. 7 and 10th. Thomas told the Sun Sentinel, “We just want to be smart and give me some practice time,’’ Thomas said after morning skate at the BB&T Center. “So take it day by day. ‘’

“Just an extra day and extra time. He can play but we’re just giving him the extra time to make sure everything is good,’’ Horachek said. “We’re looking in the long term rather than the short term.’’

Horachek added that this being the first game of a back-to-back set, concluding with the Canadiens on Sunday, played into his decision to start Clemmensen.

When I kiddingly said that he owns Detroit, Thomas shot back: “Yeah, hopefully the teams owns them.’’

In another lineup change, Horachek is putting forward Scott Gomez back in the lineup on the fourth line with David Hayes and Shawn Matthias, with Krys Barch headed to the bench after playing the last six games. Gomez has played in just five of the 22 games that Horachek has coached, including just one in the past 11.

“He’s got good energy, a lot of good experience and he’s chomping at the bit,’’ Horachek said. “What we’re looking from him is that experience factor and energy he brings. He’s a positive person on the bench, he’s positive in the locker room, and hopefully that will spur that on. As much leadership you can get in the room the better.

“He was a very good pro and handled himself very well. He did all the right things, he worked hard. It’s a matter of showing the younger players how to handled themselves properly.’