1 December 2021
Week 13 of the season brings two more home games – and both of them are against teams who are historically close to the Dragons. Over our time in the KHL, there’s been little to choose between us and Neftekhimik or Sibir. Can we tip the stats in our favor in the coming days?
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (Dec. 2)
Last time out: Our trip to Tatarstan at the start of November was one of the highlights of our season – especially for forward Mikhail Abramov. He scored his first two goals in the KHL to help the Dragons to a 5-3 win over Neftekhimik.
Familiar faces: As before, Neftekhimik blue liner Mikhail Sidorov is the only player on either roster to have represented both clubs.
Background: Historically, there’s little to choose between these clubs. In the Eastern Conference, we’ve often found ourselves battling for a playoff spot and our head-to-head record could hardly be closer: the Dragons have more wins (9-8), Neftekhimik has more wins in regulation (8-7) and the aggregate score reads 48-46 in the visitor’s favor. This season, we’ve had one victory apiece and evenly shared 14 goals between us in two previous meetings. It would be a brave man who bet heavily on the winner of Thursday’s meeting.
Recent form, though, does favor Neftekhimik. Oleg Leontiev’s team has won three of its last five, and was just a second away from making it four against Ak Bars on Sunday before losing in overtime. That moved the Wolves up to seventh in the East. However, when things go wrong for Neftekhimik, they can go very wrong: in the midst of that run, SKA powered to an 8-2 victory in Nizhnekamsk, emphatically snapping a club record six-game skid in the process. That’s the kind of inconsistency the Dragons will be looking to exploit when the teams meet in Mytishchi.
Sibir Novosibirsk (Dec. 4)
Last time out: Two games against Sibir this season have brought two losses: 1-3 at home last month when a Jason Fram effort was not enough to save us, and 0-1 on the road in September.
Familiar faces: Trevor Murphy was a hugely popular figure during his time with KRS and the Canadian blue liner is winning friends in Novosibirsk this season. On Monday he was named as defenseman of the week by the KHL after picking up 5 (1+4) points in three games in week 12. Earlier he won a player of the week award with us in 2019/20. Alexei Kruchinin, who scored on us in that 1-3 loss last month, also had a short spell in the Dragons’ Lair.
Background: Like Neftekhimik, Sibir has been a close rival in previous season. Again, the Siberians tend to be scrapping for a top eight place and our head-to-head record is tight. Sibir has the overall lead (10 wins to 7), but the Dragons have more wins in regulation (8-7) and more goals (50-47).
However, Sibir is on a run of 12 wins in 15 games (and one of those losses came in a shoot-out). After starting the season with just two victories in 11, that’s a big turnaround. Parting company with misfiring Swedish forward Anton Wedin helped, as did the return to fitness of influential defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, and steadily Andrei Martemyanov’s team has played itself into form and climbed to sixth in the standings. Murphy’s recent scoring flurry catches the eye but scoring is shared around this team with six forwards into double figures for the season. Nick Shore leads the way with 19 (6+13) points. More importantly, though, Sibir boasts a solid defense with 72 goals allowed, the second best figure in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the entire KHL. Goaltender Harri Sateri is joint third in the league for shut-outs, level with CSKA’s Adam Reideborn and our old friend Simon Hrubec at Avangard. The Finn’s save percentage is joint fifth on 92.7%.