Mike Halford

Video: Skinner, Crosby, Anisimov star in Goals of the Week

Another trio of outstanding tallies highlight Goals of the Week.

First up, it’s Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, showing off the hands and finesse that won him the Calder Trophy in 2011.

Next, it’s Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby with some slick hands of his own, tipping home a point shot to score against the Kings.

Finally, it’s another great setup from the hottest scorer in hockey — Patrick Kane, who delivered a great no-look pass to Artem Anisimov.

Ken Hitchcock has a new coaching lifehack

Ken Hitchcock, Doug Armstrong
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Long known as one of the NHL’s more innovative coaches, St. Louis’ Ken Hitchcock has come up with a new strategy:

Instead of using his timeout, he’ll make a superfluous goalie change.

More, from the Post-Dispatch:

On two occasions this season, Hitchcock has pulled Jake Allen or Brian Elliott from the game briefly, buying time for his team without burning a timeout.

The latest instance happened in the second period of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Toronto, after the Maple Leafs took a 3-1 lead.

Allen was called to the Blues’ bench and looked frustrated by the move. Replaced by Elliott, he was off the ice for 2 minutes, 8 seconds before returning.

Hitchcock admitted Elliott and Allen dislike the strategy  — “I don’t think they’re OK with it,” he said — but added that he wasn’t going to waste his single timeout if he didn’t have to, regardless of who he riles up.

To be honest, it’s not a bad move.

Hitchcock’s strategy is especially important this year with the implementation of the coach’s challenge, as bench bosses need to have their timeout available in order to make one.

Earlier this season, Avs head coach Patrick Roy admitted he didn’t call timeout during Minnesota’s four-goals-in-5:07 outburst against his club, because he wanted the option to possibly challenge a call later in the game.

Lecavalier: ‘I haven’t thought about’ retirement

Vincent Lecavalier
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Aside from yesterday’s treatment for a sore back, Vinny Lecavalier says he’s healthy — which confirms that, given the Flyers have scratched him 12 straight times, all of them were of the “healthy” variety.

So when he didn’t take to the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate, pundits started to assume something was up.

Flyers GM Ron Hextall said he’d update the situation Wednesday (though he did explain Lecavalier was having a “recovery day”), which led reporters to then question Lecavalier.

His reply?

Not much.

“I don’t know what to say, man. It is what it is,” Lecavalier said, per the Courier-Post. “Obviously I’m not getting in the lineup, and I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m not going to come to the rink pissed off. I’m still going to try to come and get better.”

Lecavalier then said he “honestly” hasn’t thought about retirement, adding that calling it a career is “a personal thing,” and “it’s not anybody that makes that decision up for you.”

The 35-year-old is, of course, in the third of a five-year, $22.5 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. Retirement talks often come up with Lecavalier because it’s tough to envision any team taking him on via trade, especially since he’s healthy (meaning there’s no stashing him on LTIR and getting the subsequent cap relief).

In light of all this, it’ll be interesting to hear what Hextall has to say about the situation today.

NHL on NBCSN: Habs, Bruins in Winter Classic preview on Rivalry Night

P.K. Subban Brad Marchand
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Tonight, it’s doubleheader action on NBCSN.

Things kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET, when the Montreal Canadiens host the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre. This game marks a preview of next month’s Winter Classic — to be played on New Year’s Day, on NBC — and renews a historic rivalry, too.

The Bruins and Canadiens have played each other in more than 900 regular season and Stanley Cup Playoff games, the most of any two teams in NHL history.

After the B’s-Habs, NBCSN has another tantalizing tilt: Pittsburgh at Colorado (10 p.m. ET), in which Nova Scotia natives Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon will do battle.

A reminder you can watch both games on TV, or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

For tonight’s calls, Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will have Bruins-Canadiens, while John Forslund and Brian Boucher will handle Penguins-Avs.

After 23-game absence, Couture back for Sharks tonight

Logan Couture

The San Jose Sharks will get a major boost tonight in Calgary.

Logan Couture, who’s been out of action since mid-October with a fractured ankle, will play for the first time in 23 games when the Sharks take on the Flames at the Saddledome.

“Very excited,” Couture said today, per the San Jose Mercury News.”[Monday] was a good day for me, to be on a normal line and be a part of a practice. Tonight’s going to be the same, to be out there competing.

“It’s going to be fun.”

Couture is expected to center San Jose’s second line tonight, between Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward. It’s a huge boost for the club — Couture finished second on the team last year with a career-best 67 points, and finished just nine assists shy of Joe Thornton‘s club-leading 49.

Couture’s return also comes at an important time.

The Sharks are struggling lately, having lost four of their last five and three in a row. The offense has also sputtered during this current winless skid, as the team has just four goals in three contests.