5 December 2021
In the week before our second international break, the Dragons are on the road again. It’s a long trip, starting with two tough games in the Urals against the Eastern Conference pace-setters, then moving on to Kazakhstan and Sibir in search of success in the east.
Traktor (Dec. 6)
Last time out: The first of our four games against Traktor this season took place in Chelyabinsk back in September and ended in a 1-4 loss, masterminded by Nikita Tertyshny. Brandon Yip’s fifth goal of the season was the highlight for the Dragons.
Familiar faces: Nikita Khlystov made his KHL debut with Traktor back in 2013/14 and had a total of four seasons with the Chelyabinsk team.
Background: When the teams met early in the season, Traktor’s forward Nikita Tertyshny was showing signs of a breakout season in the KHL. Since then, the 23-year-old has gone from strength to strength, landing himself an All-Star call on the back of 31 (18+13) points in 37 games this term. His emergence as a big player after 14 pointless appearances across two seasons rather mirrors Traktor’s collective progress this season.
The previous campaign was OK, but a first-round playoff exit surprised nobody. This time, under Anvar Gatiyatulin, things are a bit different. A good summer recruitment process had words like “dark horses” bandied around in the Southern Urals, and the team has not disappointed. Traktor is pushing Metallurg hard at the top of the KHL standings and shows signs of being able to emulate those early 2010s teams that won the Continental Cup and got to the Gagarin Cup final. Tertyshny’s emergence has compensated for the injuries that affected Tomas Hyka, Nick Bailen continues to pile up the points from the blue line, Roman Will is developing into a classy KHL goalie and Vitaly Kravtsov is always capable of a game-winning contribution on his latest short trip back home from New York and the NHL. Yet, when recent results include back-to-back losses against Dinamo Minsk and Amur, there’s always hope of springing a surprise.
Metallurg (Dec. 8)
Last time out: It’s barely a week since we entertained Metallurg in Mytishchi, going down 1-5 on Nov. 28.
Familiar faces: Dragons’ defenseman Denis Osipov spent part of the 2015/16 season in Magnitogorsk. He made 39 appearances (12 in the playoffs) and contributed 7 (3+4) points in that spell. Magnitogorsk native Nikita Khlystov also featured for his hometown team last season, playing 26 times and posting five assists. However, he is currently on the injured list and unlikely to feature on this trip.
Background: Ilya Vorobyov’s team is in much the same place as we found it a week ago when the KHL table-topper came to Mytishchi and powered to a 5-1 win. A 4-6 loss in an epic game at CSKA is the only recent blot on Magnitka’s copybook as the Steelmen remain out in front of the rest.
Brendan Leipsic is emerging as one of the star performers on the team, and he’s red hot at the moment. Two goals on us in that game in Mytisishchi were followed by a highlight reel effort against CSKA. He’s got 5 (4+1) points in his last five games and is in the mood to hurt defenses. Semyon Koshelev is keeping pace with Leipsic and Andrei Chibisov is also in a rich vein of scoring just now. Those three have stepped up just as Philippe Maillet and Nikolai Goldobin, the early-season pacesetters on this team, seem to have slowed a little – which demonstrates just how much firepower is available for the Steelmen. Historically, we’ve struggled in Magnitogorsk, never getting as far as overtime, let alone winning here. But there’s a first time for everything, right?
Barys (Dec. 10)
Last time out: Tyler Wong grabbed a late, late tying goal when Barys came to Mytishchi in mid-October. Sadly, Nikita Mikhailis had the hex on us that day, scoring in regulation then potting the shoot-out winner to give his dad’s team the points.
Familiar faces: None.
Background: Barys is making a case to be the biggest underachiever in the KHL this season. So impressive last year under head coach Yury Mikhailis, and buoyed by a strong performance from Team Kazakhstan at the 2021 World Championship, many expected Nur-Sultan to be up among the leading contenders in the East this time around. Instead, though, the team has struggled for consistency and lies outside of the playoff places.
Key men like Darren Dietz have struggled for form; almost unthinkably, the club captain was a healthy scratch in recent games. And collectively, the team has been unable to put together the kind of winning run that could see it follow Sibir up the table into relative comfort in the top eight.
Change is afoot. Slovak international Tomas Jurco arrived recently from the NHL and he is on a five-game productive run. Curtis Valk can better that – he’s picked up points in his previous 10 appearances. However, it’s indicative of Barys’ problems that Valk has only finished on the winning side in four of those games.
Sibir (Dec. 12)
Last time out: Two goals from Denis Golubev, two points from Trevor Murphy and some freak goals saw us suffer a 2-7 loss against Sibir just eight days before this game.
Familiar faces: At risk of sounding ungrateful towards one of our most popular former players, we’d appreciate it if Trevor Murphy slowed down a bit after picking up two points against us last Saturday.
Background: There’s some extra bite in this fixture. It comes the weekend after we suffered an unhappy 2-7 loss at home to Sibir, and it’s our last chance to get a win against these guys this season. Traditionally, there’s not much to choose between our two clubs, but so far we’re running 0-and-3 against Andrei Martemyanov’s team – a stat we’d very much like to improve.
Historically, our results against Sibir have been much closer. Prior to this season, the overall head-to-head was very even but things have got away from the Dragons a bit in the current campaign. That’s partly due to Sibir’s big upswing in form in the last couple of months, with the Siberians currently on the kind of run that would have people talking about competing for honors. That compensates sharply for a dismal start to the season that brought just two wins in the first 11 games. While it’s clear that Martemyanov has his players in exceptional form, it’s less obvious that this is an exceptional team – and that suggests that snapping our recent skid is not just a pipe dream.