25 October 2021
The final week of the month is a relatively quiet one. The Dragons face a stand-alone home game against Neftekhimik in midway before starting the next road trip in Yekaterinburg on Saturday.
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (home, Oct. 26)
Last time out: Neftekhimik was our first opponent this season, and things did not get off to a great start. We suffered a 1-5 loss in Nizhnekamsk with Spencer Foo getting our only goal.
Familiar faces: Neftekhimik defenseman Mikhail Sidorov, who was briefly on the Dragons’ team last season, is the only player to have represented both teams. Last week, the 24-year-old potted his first goal of the season in a shoot-out win over Amur.
Background: Tuesday’s game should give a good indication of what progress we’ve made this season. Our first encounter involved a very raw Red Star team still feeling its way towards a system of play under a new head coach. Now, almost two months on, we’re looking a roster with some judicious reinforcements and a stronger team identity. That in itself should lead to a more competitive performance.
Neftekhimik, meanwhile, finds itself in a position similar to our own: outside the top eight and looking to force its way into that playoff battle. It’s a team with a vulnerable defense – twice in the last five games it has allowed six goals, including five in a six-minute spell in its last game against Torpedo. The inconsistent form of import goalie Frans Tuohimaa has not helped here, and recent games have seen Alexander Sudnitsin step in. But there is some attacking power, with Marat Khairullin scoring five goals in that time. The club captain is also the key dangerman, while Pavel Poryadin is often the architect of his team’s attacking play.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (away, Oct. 30)
Last time out: When we met on home ice in September, this was a game that got away from us. Tied 1-1 after the first period, we fell behind to a Stephane da Costa power play goal in the second and ended up on the wrong side of a 5-1 scoreline.
Familiar faces: Our defenseman Denis Osipov spent the 2011/12 season with Avtomobilist, playing 52 games and producing 11 (7+4) points. As before, ex-Dragons’ goalie Dmitry Shukin and former Red Star d-man Jesse Blacker are important players on the Avtomobilist roster.
Background: Expect goals. Avtomobilist has scored 73 time this season and allowed 70. That makes it the team with the highest aggregate goal tally in the KHL. French center Stephane da Costa leads the recent scoring with 9 (3+6) points in his last five games, while former Kunlun defenseman Jesse Blacker has 8 (1+7) in the same timeframe. And the team’s last five games include three 4-3 scorelines and two epic battles with Sochi that ended 4-5 and 7-6! It’s also notable that eight of Avto’s 22 games so far this season have gone to overtime.
The special teams are also noteworthy. With a 28.1% success rate on the power play, Avtomobilist is bettered only by Avangard when playing with an extra man. But the penalty kill is ranked 21st out of 24 in the league after allowing 20 goals in 75 short-handed situations. Encouragingly from our point of view, the Motormen take rather more penalties than their opponents – at a rate of almost one per game so far this season. Team scoring is led by da Costa (21 points), one ahead of Ryan Spooner. Sergei Shumakov is showing signs of getting hot, with seven of his 12 points this season coming from the last five games.