To the East, with added optimism!

9 October 2022

The Dragons head east once more, and they’re full of optimism. Red Star took six points from a possible eight in our recent home stand, and all four games went to overtime. That highlights, once again, the hard work and commitment on this team.

Amid all that excitement, it’s worth highlighting some individual efforts. Captain Brandon Yip continues to lead from the front. He’s on a four-game productive streak, which has been a big part of our recent progress. Parker Foo is quietly fulfilling his role as a fulcrum of our offense, with six helpers in the last five while Zac Leslie is delivering some firepower from the blue line, just as we hoped. Throw in some rock-solid goaltending from Matt Jurusik and Jeremy Smith, and it’s easy to see why there are good reasons for optimism ahead of our next road trip.

Avangard Omsk (Oct. 9, 1400 Moscow Time)

Last season: Our two meetings with the Hawks last term did not go well. We lost 1-4 on home ice, and 0-5 in Balashikha.

Familiar faces: None

Background: Over the last couple of seasons, Avangard and Red Star had something in common. Both teams were forced into exile, far from home. With no disrespect to Moscow Region, which hosted the Hawks and continues to host us with generous hospitality, we totally get the excitement around the grand opening of Avangard’s new home a week ago. Sunday’s game is only the third to take place at the 12,000-seater G-Drive Arena and so far the Hawks are settling in well. A 5-1 thrashing of Metallurg on Saturday suggests that Dmitry Ryabykin’s team has already found its feet in the new building.

However, Ryabykin’s first season as a head coach in the KHL has not gone entirely smoothly. A slow start to the campaign was partially explained by a run of 12 road games for starters before the new arena was ready for action. However, it also included a club record losing streak and the Hawks allowed 46 goals in their first 15 games. A 0-5 loss in Ufa in midweek suggests that, despite an upswing in recent results, Avangard is not yet the finished article. With the Dragons proving an increasingly difficult opponent for any team, why shouldn’t we hope to become the first visiting team to take something from the new arena in Omsk?

AKM 5714

Barys Astana (Oct. 11, 1630 Moscow Time)

Last season: When Barys visited Mytishchi last season it needed a shoot-out to edge a 2-1 verdict. In Nur-Sultan (now Astana again), meanwhile, both teams went goal crazy as the Kazakhs won 7-4 in a barn-burner of a game.

Familiar faces: None

Background: It’s hard to know what to expect from Barys this season. Andrei Skabelka’s return as head coach raised expectations in Kazakhstan after an underwhelming 2021/22 campaign. However, up to now he has struggled to find the winning formula.

At its best, Barys can be excellent: witness Saturday’s impressive road win at Ak Bars. However, the team is plagued with inconsistency and is struggling to shake its habit of alternating wins and losses. There is potential here, and once Skabelka’s systems have properly settled into place it would be no surprise to see this team climb the Eastern Conference standings. Summer signings Anthony Louis, Jeremy Bracco and Jesse Graham have been among the team’s leading scorers in recent games, while Linden Vey is in rich form this season following his return to the place where his KHL career began. Defensively, though, there are question marks. Barys has allowed 44 goals in 16 games, which is a below-par return in the East. The recent addition of Slovak goalie Julius Hudacek is intended to solve that problem, with young Nikita Boyarkin taking on the understudy role. For now, though, there are still questions for Barys to answer.

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