7 August 2020
It’s official! Kunlun Red Star is among the 23 teams that will contest the 2020/21 KHL season. The upcoming campaign is set to start on September 2 – and the Dragons will play their first game two days later. Alexei Kovalev’s first competitive game behind the bench for Red Star promises to be a tough test on the road at Eastern Conference rival Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In our previous four seasons, we’ve never won there – but last season saw a first ever win over the Steelmen in regular season play, winning 3-1 in Beijing on Nov. 17.
The Magnitka meeting kicks off a five-game road-trip that takes in Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, Nur-Sultan and Novosibirsk before our first home game of the season against Avtomobilist on Sep. 17. The delay was at the club’s request: the KHL has inspected our planned temporary home at Arena Mytishchi and identified some areas that need bringing up to standard before the start of the season. Beginning our campaign on the road gives a little extra time to complete those tasks.
A few highlights immediately leap off the schedule. For head coach Kovalev, there’s likely to be extra spice on October 4 when Kunlun goes to Dynamo Moscow. Kovy began his own illustrious career with the Blue-and-Whites, making his debut in the Soviet championship in 1989/90 and remaining with the club until he joined the New York Rangers in 1993. The return game is scheduled for Feb. 27, the final day of the regular season.
Then there’s the match-up with Ak Bars, the other current KHL team where Kovalev had a spell as a player. During the 2004/05 lockout season, he went to Kazan and had 22 points in 35 Russian Superleague outings. Our coach will renew acquaintance with Ak Bars on Nov. 21 (home) and Jan. 30 (away).
With Admiral missing this season, we only have one Far East rival to visit: we’ll go to Khabarovsk for back-to-back games with Amur on Jan. 10 and 12. The Tigers come to us on Nov. 24 and Jan. 19. However, a temporary relocation to the Moscow suburbs sets up a new ‘exiles derby’ against Avangard, which continues in Balashikha for a third season. The Dragons entertain the Hawks on Nov. 29 and Dec. 21 (home), going to Avangard on Sep. 25 and Dec. 30.
In total, Kunlun will play 60 regular season games. As usual, the top eight teams from the Eastern Conference will proceed to the playoffs, which are due to start on March 2. The final day of the season could be as late as April 30, if the Gagarin Cup Final goes to a seventh game.