Russia's Viktor Tikhonov, left, and Enver Lisin celebrate the team's second goal scored by Lisin during the EHT Karjala Tournament match against Sweden in Helsinki, Finland, Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jussi Nukari) FINLAND OUT

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Who are these guys?


The Winter Olympics are a chance to showcase the best hockey talent the world has to offer. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll see stacked lines duels against superb defensemen and elite goaltenders.

But it’s not just a series of NHL All-Star Games with medals on the line — given it’s an international event, the Olympic talent pool extends beyond North America’s top league. In fact, there will be be plenty players with little to no NHL experience playing significant roles.

With that in mind, we’ve handpicked a few worth learning about before the puck drops:

Viktor Tikhonov (Russia) — Odds are the name sounds familiar even if you can’t quite place it. Tikhonov was named after his grandfather, best known for coaching the Soviet Union to three gold medals (the final in 1992 was with the short-lived Unified Team).

The younger Tikhonov is a 25-year-old winger that grew up in California, holds dual American and Russian citizenship, and was taken in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He had eight goals and 16 points in 61 games with the Coyotes in 2008-09, but he split the next season between the AHL and KHL and eventually settled on European hockey in 2011-12.

Over the last three campaigns with SKA St. Petersburg, he has scored 46 goals and 88 points in 129 contests. He’s someone that has established himself beyond his family name, but that doesn’t mean his history isn’t important to him.

“It’s kind of funny to think about it, but the last time Russia won was 22 years ago, when (my grandfather) was the coach,” Tikhonov told the San Jose Mercury News. “Maybe it’ll come full circle and we can go from Tikhonov to Tikhonov. That would be kind of cool.”

Reto Suri (Switzerland) — Suri has spent his entire professional career in the Swiss league, but that nearly changed over the summer. After a strong 2012-13 campaign with Zug, the skilled forward helped lead Switzerland to a silver medal in the 2013 World Championships and tied Nino Niederreiter with a team-high five goals.

Along the way, Suri netted two shootout goals in a 3-2 upset over Canada in the round robin phase. You can watch his second marker below (skip to 1:47):

It was the first time Switzerland had ever won a medal in the tournament and not long after that, reports began to surface that Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was trying to sign him. Suri couldn’t head to the NHL, though, because the Swiss Federation lacked a transfer agreement with the NHL and vetoed the proposal.

The Lightning are still very interested in Suri, likely because he continues to shine in the Swiss league. He’s notched a career-high 36 points to tie for eighth place in the National A League scoring race.

Jori Lehtera (Finland) — Lehtera’s never played in the NHL, but certainly had the option to. The St. Louis Blues took him in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft but, after a seven-game taste of the AHL during the 2008-09 campaign, he went back to Europe and hasn’t looked back.

Lehtera led Finland’s SM-liiga in 2009-10 with 69 points and earned the league’s MVP award. The following campaign, he decided to take his talents to the KHL where he has quickly established himself as one of the league’s top players.

This year, the 26-year-old forward is tied with Ilya Kovalchuk for ninth place in the league’s scoring race (40 points).

His success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Blues, but they haven’t been able to lure him over.

“At the end of the day he does not want to play in the NHL,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in June. “We offered him a one-way, seven-figure deal. Can’t force guys to want to play in the NHL.”

It’s worth adding that Lehtera is capable of playing up the middle, which makes him a very valuable commodity for Finland after they lost centers Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.

Ivan Baranka (Slovakia) — Baranka was selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers and in his third season as a pro in North America, he got his big chance.

The Rangers summoned him and he made his NHL debut on Nov. 21 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made the most of his 12:44 minutes of ice time by setting up the game-winning goal by Colton Orr in the 2-1 victory.

And he never played in the NHL again.

Following that campaign, he decided to take his talents to the KHL where he has emerged as one of that league’s top defenseman. He’s a physical blueliner, but also contributes offensively. Playing for the Omsk Avangard this season, he’s tied for 20th place among defensemen with 18 points in 47 games.

He was part of Slovakia’s 2010 Olympic team, which finished a surprising fourth. He didn’t play a big role in that tournament, but he was a major factor on the 2012 World Championships team that earned a stunning 4-3 victory over Team Canada in the Quarterfinals. Slovakia went on to win the silver medal in that competition.

With Lubomir Visnovsky sidelined, Slovakia has just four NHL defenseman on their roster. They’ll be counting on Baranka to once again stand up to the NHL’s elite.

Ducks come to terms with Lindholm, so what happens now?

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on October 14, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

And now we wait for the other shoe to drop, because according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Anaheim Ducks have come to terms with defenseman Hampus Lindholm on a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

It’s a win for the Ducks, who succeed in their quest to get Lindholm locked up with a lower cap hit than the Sabres got Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million).

But will the Ducks now have to make a trade? It’s been rumored for a while that Cam Fowler could be dealt once Lindholm’s deal got done. Anaheim may prefer to trade a veteran like Kevin Bieksa or Clayton Stoner, but Bieksa has a no-movement clause, and there may not be a market for those two anyway.

The Ducks won’t get Lindholm back in the lineup right away, so there’s plenty of time for GM Bob Murray to make any moves that need to be made.

Lindholm, 22, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games last season, logging 22:00 of ice time per game.

Pastrnak to have hearing for Girardi headshot


Bruins forward David Pastrnak will have a hearing for his illegal check to the head of Rangers d-man Dan Girardi, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

Pastrnak was whistled for a minor penalty on the play, which occurred in the second period of Boston’s 5-2 loss at MSG on Wednesday night. Girardi left the contest momentarily, but was able to return and finished with 16:15 TOI.

“I don’t really know it makes contact with my face at first, but it is what it is, I’m kind of vulnerable,” Girardi said of the hit, per the New York Post. “He’s going to try to make a hit. He just hit me in the front of the face, so it wasn’t like it was the side-of-the-head hit or something.

“As soon as I got up, I was fine.”

Pastrnak, who did appear to leave his feet to make the hit, doesn’t have any history with the DoPS, and has never been subjected to supplemental discipline from the department.

His hearing will take place on Friday.

Former Isles goalie Kevin Poulin signs with KHL club

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Goaltender Kevin Poulin #60 of the New York Islanders in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 12, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Poulin is leaving the pro hockey scene in North America to sign with the KHL’s Astana Barys.

It’s a one-year deal, per Igor Eronko of Sports-Express.

The former Islanders goalie spent last season with the Stockton Heat of the AHL, where he had a 14-11-3 record with a 2.86 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage in 29 games.

The 26-year-old last played in the NHL during the 2014-15 season. He made one appearance with the Isles that year.

He had a few opportunities with the Islanders, but it was usually the result of players ahead of him on the depth chart getting injured.

Poulin leaves the NHL with a career 18-25-3 record, a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .899 save percentage in 50 games.

He’ll join former NHLers Vitaly Kolesnik and Henrik Karlsson in Astana Barys’ crease. Nigel Dawes, Brandon Bochenski, Martin St. Pierre, Cam Barker and Kevin Dallman are also on the roster.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey’s spookiest goalie masks

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Here are some of hockey’s all-time spookiest goalie masks. (Sports Illustrated)

Beau Bennett‘s funny response to his name being left off the Stanley Cup. (BarDown)

Alex Ovechkin made this young fan’s night by giving him one of his sticks. (Sportsnet)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Rangers and Bruins. (Top)

–Everybody remembers Grant Fuhr, Curtis Joseph, Jacques Plante, Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke, but these are the teams you don’t remember them playing for. (The Hockey News)

–Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre honors his late grandmother on the back of his goalie mask. (The Score)

–Former NHL goalie Niklas Svedberg made an incredible stick save in a KHL game: