Ready for a Ural test

24 September 2022

The Dragons’ second road trip of the season takes us to the Urals. It promises to be another tough assignment, with visits to the current top two in the Eastern Conference, plus a game in Chelyabinsk against a Traktor team with a point to prove. But, after that sensational win against CSKA, confidence is high for our guys.

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Metallurg (Sep. 24, 1500 Moscow time)

Last season: We had two high-scoring games against the Steelmen last term. Our first encounter in November was a bruising 1-5 loss, but a few weeks later in Magnitogorsk, Red Star produced a much better performance to rally from 0-2 before losing out 4-6.

Familiar faces: None

Background: Metallurg briefly reached the top of the Eastern Conference during the week and remains close behind Avtomobilist ahead of this game. Ilya Vorobyov has won six of its nine games, and only lost once in regulation so far – that on the opening day against CSKA. However, it has not been entirely plain sailing for Magnitka up to now. Forward Nikolai Goldobin, one of the stars of the run to last season’s final, has struggled to reproduce that form this time around. Dropped for recent games, he’s been told to rediscover the spark that made him a leader in the 2022 playoffs as head coach Vorobyov remains concerned about ‘average’ performances this season. In Goldobin’s absence, Philippe Maillet is leading the line. The Canadian has five goals in his last five games, while Denis Zernov is also troubling netminders.

Avtomobilist (Sep. 26, 1700)

Last season: It wasn’t good. A 1-5 home loss was followed by a Hallowe’en horror on Oct. 30 when we went down 0-8 in Yekaterinburg.

Familiar faces: Defenseman Jesse Blacker began his KHL career with the Dragons in 2017/18, compiling 9 (1+8) points in 49 games. He’s now in his second season with Avtomobilist, where he has yet to score in 10 games.

Background: When Red Star visits the Uralets Arena, it will have a point to prove. In our last two visits to Avtomobilist, we’ve suffered two heavy losses by a 15-0 aggregate. But that was then. The current Dragons have repeatedly shown a greater competitive spirit this season and will be confident of producing a more competitive performance this time.

The big danger in the opposition ranks is experienced forward Sergei Shirokov. He recently played his 700th game in the league and seems revitalized by his summer move from Spartak. With 13 (7+6) points in 10 games, the 36-year-old is the driving force behind the Avto offense. However, the team’s leading scorer is Brooks Macek with 15 (6+9) points. It won’t surprise you to learn that a good chunk of those nine assists came on Shirokov’s goals, while four of his six goals arrived on the power play.

Traktor (Sep. 28, 1700)

Last season: We had two visits to Chelyabinsk last term, losing 1-4 in September before grabbing a point in an overtime loss in December with goals from Brandon Yip and Spencer Foo forcing a 2-2 tie in regulation. Later, Traktor played back-to-back games in Mytishchi and won them both.

Familiar faces: None.

Background: It would be fair to say that Traktor’s season has not really got started. Thus far, Anvar Gatiyatulin’s team has alternated wins and losses and currently lies in 10th in the East. That’s well below the expected standard, especially after last season’s impressive run to the Conference Final.

The club seems to have identified the defense as its weak spot. Goalie Emil Garipov left the team last week, with Canadian Andrew Hammond drafted in to replace him. The 34-year-old has 67 NHL appearances, 11 of them coming last season in spells with Montreal and New Jersey. In addition, Swedish defenseman Adam Almqvist recently joined the team. He has extensive KHL experience and will be expected to fill the void left by Nick Bailen, who moved to Germany in the summer.

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