Homeward bound - Kunlun Red Star

Homeward bound

20 November 2020

We’re back at home for the rest of the month, with five games coming up in Mytishchi. And we’re welcoming back an old friend as well. Goalie Jeremy Smith, who played for us last season, has signed up for a return to the club. He’ll be sharing duties with Dmitry Shikin and the American’s arrival should ensure that the departure of Simon Hrubec to Avangard does not slow the team’s progress.

The upcoming games also offer a chance to snap a run of poor form dating back to the start of the month. So far, the Dragons have lost all five games played in November and had a sixth encounter cancelled after members of the travelling party tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in Helsinki earlier this week.

 

Ak Bars (Nov. 21)

Last season: After a 0-5 loss in Kazan in September, the Dragons got revenge on home ice in January. Second-period goals from Adam Cracknell and Trevor Murphy cancelled out an early effort from Mikhail Glukhov, and an empty-netter from Gilbert Brule sealed a 3-1 win.

Familiar faces: This one isn’t a traditional ‘familiar face’, since Kazan defenseman Andrei Pedan never played for Red Star. But his younger brother, Ruslan, is part of our roster this season so we could see a family battle in this game.

Background: It’s bottom vs top in this game as the Eastern Conference leader comes to town. Ak Bars is in fine form, losing just one game in eight. The sole defeat, against Traktor, means the Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team has close company in the race for the top.

That’s not to say it’s been a straightforward season for the team. Hugely influential forward Danis Zaripov only recently returned from injury, while last season’s most productive defenseman Mikael Wikstrand also missed several games. However, there is reliable scoring from long-time Kazan favorite Justin Azevedo and summer signing Stephane da Costa, both of whom are on 20 points for the season. Viktor Tikhonov is in productive form, scoring 11 (6+5) points in his last eight appearances.

 

Dinamo Riga (Nov. 23)

Last time out: We met one week prior to this game in Latvia and Dinamo ended its long losing streak with a 5-3 success at the Dragons’ expense.

Familiar faces: Gleb Zyryanov started this season with Red Star and enjoyed reminding us of that with two goals in the game in Riga. Gunars Skvorcovs is another player who made the same Kunlun-Dinamo move this season and featured in Monday’s game. After the Dragons were undone by a former player in Riga, maybe Danny Kristo can return the favor and score on his previous KHL employer in the rematch.

Background: After getting a long-awaited win, Dinamo suffered a 1-6 reverse against its near namesake in Moscow. Both Riga and Red Star remain somewhat adrift of the competition at the foot of their respective conferences but, as we saw a week earlier, both are playing battling, competitive hockey. Prior to the game in Latvia, we noted that Dinamo had used 45 players so far this season. That tally is now 46, with goalie Zane McIntyre making his debut against us. Admittedly, it was a short-lived affair: the American lasted just nine minutes, allowed two goals and was replaced.

 

Amur Khabarovsk (Nov. 24)

Last season: We enjoyed entertaining Amur last season, facing the Tigers in back-to-back games in Beijing in January and winning both of them 4-2. Brandon McGee’s only goal for the club was the gamewinner on Jan. 21, then a double strike from Adam Cracknell completed a fight back from 0-2 the following day. We also had a 3-2 road win in Khabarovsk in December 2019.

Familiar faces: None

Background: Amur finished its four-game home stand with an overtime win over Metallurg and had four wins from six ahead of its visit to SKA on Nov. 22. However, Sergei Svetlov’s team remains outside the playoff places in the East as it struggles to overcome the legacy of a poor start to the season. Amur won just one of its first nine games, form that prompted the club to appoint Svetlov in place of interim head coach Pavel Turgayev.

That decision, and the return of the team’s imports, has helped Amur to improve as the season progresses – Hynek Zohorna’s two goals delivered the victory against Magnitka in the previous game and, in partnership with brother Tomas, he has added punch to the Tigers’ offense.. Vladimir Butuzov, a summer signing from Admiral, is the leading scorer with 16 (8+8)

 

Sibir Novosibirsk (Nov. 27)

Last time out: Two goals from German Shaporev could not save the Dragons from a 4-5 loss in Novosibirsk but the September meeting did see Alexei Kovalev’s team take the lead in a game for the first time all season. Unfortunately, though, Sibir ended the day with its first victory of the campaign.

Familiar faces: You won’t find it in the stats, but our defenseman Sam Lofquist was, briefly, a Sibir player. He signed for the Novosibirsk team after the end of his first spell in the Dragons’ Lair but moved on to Linkoping before he played a game for today’s opponent.

Background: A week ago, Sibir looked like a team in crisis. A shambolic performance against Dinamo Minsk saw the team allow five goals inside the first 11 minutes – a KHL record – and the 0-6 drubbing on home ice was followed by a 1-4 loss against Avangard. However, Nikolai Zavarukhin’s men put things right and rallied to win the next two home games before starting its road trip at CSKA on Nov. 23.

Those two wins put Sibir back into the playoff places – but it’s a tight battle with just one point separating four teams either side of the dotted line. If the Siberians are to make post season, much will depend on the imports, from goalie Harri Sateri to free-scoring Finns Mikael Ruohomaa (20 points this season) and Juuso Puustinen (15).

 

Avangard Omsk (Nov. 29)

Last time out: Our first trip to Balashikha this season ended in a 1-3 loss with youngster Yegor Chinakhov getting a goal and an assist. Luke Lockhart was our scorer, potting his first of the season.

Familiar faces: Simon Hrubec could be in line to play against the Dragons for the first time. The Czech goalie swapped Mytishchi for Balashikha at the start of October, a reward for his impressive form in the 14 months he represented our club in the KHL and has won two of his three starts so far for the Hawks. However, Avangard currently has six imports on the books, which might limit Hrubec’s opportunities at his new club.

Background: A 5-2 victory on Thursday at Barys saw Avangard improve to four wins from five and remain in contention with the Eastern Conference leaders. Oddly, although the Hawks are out in front of our Chernyshev Division, they trail the two leading teams in the Kharlamov Division and are only one point ahead of Avtomobilist. Bob Hartley’s men ran into trouble in October – in 10 games from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, they lost seven as illness took its toll on the roster.

That run also prompted some moves in the market, with Hrubec joining as well as the enigmatic talent of Nail Yakupov. He scored in each of his first two games but was then limited to one assist in six appearances before finding the net in the win in Kazakhstan. Reid Boucher continues to impress and a hat-trick of helpers at Barys brought up 20 (8+12) points for him this term.

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