Three strugglers and a high-flyer

22 September 2021

Our next home stand pits the Dragons against three opponents close to us at the foot of the table, plus fast starting Dynamo Moscow. We start with visits from our friends in the Far East, Amur and Admiral, the latter back in the game after a year’s break. Then comes Dynamo Moscow, currently unbeaten and leading the scoring charts, before we enter October with a clash against an enigmatic Vityaz roster.


Amur (Sep. 23)

Last season: Our meetings with the Tigers last term was something of a microcosm of our season. In all four games, the Dragons battled hard but ended up with little reward. A point from an overtime loss in Mytishchi in January was as good as it got, in a game where we led twice and fell in the final seconds of the extras.

Familiar faces: Gleb Zyryanov lined up for Red Star early last season. He played 10 games and scored twice before joining Dinamo Riga.

Background: There’s not much to choose between these two teams on recent form. Both have picked up just one win in five, suffering some heavy losses along the way. There’s some encouragement for the Dragons though: last time out, a 0-1 loss at Sibir showed big signs of progress, while Amur began its current road trip with a 1-5 drubbing in Petersburg after going down 2-6 to Metallurg in its last home game. Neither defense has been impressive for much of the season, but Kunlun may have the firepower to take advantage of Amur’s problems: our guys have scored 21 in nine games, while their counterparts have just 13 in eight.

Amur pinned its hopes on a new influx of Czech imports this season, but so far we’ve yet to see the best of forwards Radan Lenc and David Tomasek. Tomas Zohorna and Vladislav Ushenin, two players who have a track record of scoring on Red Star, have both moved on from Amur; Ushenin is back at Admiral, while Zohorna returned home to the Czech Republic.

Admiral (Sep. 28)

Last season: Admiral took a sabbatical from the KHL last season due to financial issues during the pandemic.

Familiar faces: Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik had 10 (4+6) points for us in 23 appearances last season. This time around, the former Vityaz man has joined the crew in Vladivostok.

Background: Admiral’s return to KHL action has not been plain sailing. The Mariners lost their first six games of the season, albeit getting to overtime in three of them. A 4-1 success against Severstal on Sep. 17 finally broke the duck, but it was followed immediately by a 0-5 loss against Metallurg. Some of the team’s problems sound familiar: uncertainty about whether it would play this season, a roster hastily assembled from scratch in the summer and a limited pre-season are all reminiscent of the challenges KRS faced a year ago.

Admiral responded by bringing home several former players: Dmitry Sayustov, the Ushenin twins, goaltenders Ivan Nalimov and Nikita Serebryakov. But this team is taking time to gel. Of the early season performers, Mark Verba has caught the eye with three goals in the last five games, while Rihards Bukarts and defenseman Libor Sulak lead the scoring charts with five points apiece.

Dynamo Moscow (Sep. 30)

Last season: Our two meetings last term ended in comfortable victories for the Muscovites – 6-3 in the capital in November, then 5-1 in Mytishchi in the final days of the regular season.

Familiar faces: Our goalie Alexander Lazushin joined Dynamo in 2013 after making a name for himself at Metallurg Novokuznetsk. He stayed with the Blue-and-Whites until 2017, largely serving as understudy to Alexander Yeryomenko. He played 97 games, including 10 in the playoffs.

Background: At the time of writing, Alexei Kudashov’s Dynamo is defending the last unbeaten start to the KHL season. Seven successive wins brought Kudashov to 23 consecutive victories as head coach, matching the KHL record set by Oleg Znarok. True, Kudashov had a gap in that series: he did not work in 2020/21 after finishing the COVID-shortened 2019/20 campaign at SKA with 12 wins to end the regular season then a sweep in the first round of the playoffs.

Now at Dynamo, Kudashov is enjoying a powerful offense. Vadim Shipachyov recently brought up 750 points in the KHL and is the league’s all-time leader in assists after overtaking the great Sergei Mozyakin. He’s been on the scoresheet in each of the first seven games this season, and only once left the ice without adding multiple points. Young Dmitry Rashevsky is fast coming of age, and Nikolai Chebykin has hit a rich vein of form as he looks to cement his place in the KHL. Summer signing Stas Galiyev is also settling in well and has five goals in his last five appearances. On the blue line, Slava Voynov is making a big contribution to a team that looks set to have a serious say in the destiny of this season’s hardware.

Vityaz (Oct. 2)

Last season: Our last game against Vityaz was one of the more memorable battles of last season. Sean Collins scored the first goal of his second spell at our club and the teams served up a nine-goal thriller with Vityaz just edging the verdict. Earlier in the year, Kunlun went down 0-3 in Podolsk.

Familiar faces: Slava Leshchenko was one of the goalscorers in that 4-5 loss last season. He potted his eight, and final, goal for KRS that day and left the club in the summer after collecting 14 (8+6) points in 33 games.

Background: It’s turning into a season of struggle for Vityaz. The Podolsk team started well, with a lively 6-3 win at Torpedo. However, that was followed by a run of seven losses. The club underwent significant changes in personnel over the summer, with new head coach Yury Babenko taking over from Mikhail Kravets and overseeing a major shake-up of the roster. A big trade with SKA took several prospects to Petersburg, bringing the likes of Miro Aaltonen and Viktor Antipin the other way. Fiery Latvian forward Kaspars Daugavins, who enjoyed his best KHL season at Vityaz last term, also moved on to be replaced by compatriot Miks Indrasis. Veteran Alexander Semin, the brains of the offense, also left, as did leading scorer Justin Danforth.

In the face of all that upheaval, Vityaz is finding life hard this season. New faces Daniel Audette and Niko Ojamaki are showing flashes of talent – witness Audette’s coast-to-coast effort recently – but are still groping towards their finest form. However, there are grounds for hope: four of the seven losses to date came in overtime, and Vityaz’ games are often decided by a single goal margin.

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