Although the Dragons are currently based in Moscow Region, the club’s heart is in the East. This week takes us as close to China as we can get this season, with a visit to our traditional local(ish) rival just across the border in Khabarovsk. Two games against Amur are followed by a welcome chance to set the record straight against Sibir – and everyone is out to prove that last week’s lopsided loss was an aberration. We haven’t enjoyed the best start to 2021, but now’s the time to put that right.
Amur Khabarovsk (Jan 10 and 12)
Last time out: Our first meeting with the Tigers saw Slava Leshchenko score his first goal for Red Star. Sadly, that was not enough to prevent a 2-4 loss in Mytishchi in November.
Familiar faces: Dmitry Arkhipov swapped Dragons for Tigers in November, initially on a try-out basis. He’s subsequently secured a longer deal with Amur and could well feature this week. Our own forward Anton Lazarev, a recent addition to Red Star’s ranks, was with Amur last season and had 8 (1+7) points in the campaign.
Background: Beware the wounded Tiger. Barys discovered to its cost that Amur can pack a punch in adversity, suffering a 1-5 loss in Khabarovsk on Tuesday as the home team snapped a five-game losing streak in fine style. The key players in that game were the Czech brothers, Tomas and Hynek Zohorna, but it was another forward, Alexander Polunin, who talked up the significance of the victory. “We had a lot of games against other teams that are fighting for a playoff place and losing to them hurt,” he told KHL.ru. “We already started to think about our game differently. We’re playing harder because we understand that if we want to make the playoffs, we must win every game. We can’t just run around like headless chickens.” Playoff talk may be a little optimistic; if we can win back-to-back here, our Dragons would be just three points behind Amur.
Polunin himself is undergoing something of a renaissance with Amur. The 23-year-old has two World Juniors medals and, at one time, his partnership with Yegor Korshkov and Pavel Kraskovsky was a totem for Lokomotiv’s renowned academy. However, while his old colleagues continued on an upward trajectory, Polunin’s career stalled. An attempt to reboot at Sochi last season fell short, but in Khabarovsk he is on course for his most productive season to date. However, if Polunin is the new danger man, the Dragons can discount the threat of Vladislav Ushenin, at least for now. As an Amur player, he was the most prolific scorer in this fixture with 11 (4+7) points, but he has since moved on to Sibir … and we’ll be meeting him right after these two games.
Sibir Novosibirsk (Jan. 14)
Last time out: We’ve met Sibir three times this season, and a 1-0 victory in late November was the best of those results. The Dragons also played out a battling 4-5 loss here early in the season but suffered a disappointing 1-6 reverse before setting out on this road trip.
Familiar faces: None
Background: This is a revenge mission. Last week’s home game against Sibir was probably the worst of the season for Red Star. The third period, in particular, was one of those occasions where everything went wrong and a game that was live and competitive slipped out of our grasp and turned into a painful defeat. Not for the first time, Alexander Sharov played a noticeable role in our problems, collecting two more assists against us to remain out in front among the scorers in this fixture. His Finnish colleagues Juuso Puustinen and Mikael Ruohomaa also added to their all-too frequent collection of points in these games.
Yet there are still reasons for optimism ahead of this return encounter. First, historically our record against Sibir is positive, with seven regulation time victories against five losses. Typically, games between the teams are tight and competitive – our previous defeat here was the first game after our troubled summer in which we proved that we could go out and score goals, even without so many key players, while our home victory was also our first shut-out of the campaign. And even last week’s horror show had its moments. For two periods there was little to choose between the teams, and Spencer Foo’s tying goal late in the second was undoubtedly one for the highlight reel.