3 November 2022
Our home stand is interrupted by a quick trip to Moscow to play Spartak on Russia’s holiday weekend. Then it’s back to Mytishchi to entertain Salavat Yulaev and Avtomobilist, currently second and third in the Eastern Conference.
Spartak Moscow (Nov. 4, 1300 Moscow Time)
Last time out: When Spartak came to Mytishchi last month, the Dragons enjoyed a 3-0 victory. Doyle Somerby and Alex Riche scored their first goals of the season, with Jack Rodewald also on target. Matt Jurusik stopped 37 shots for his second shut-out of the campaign.
Familiar faces: Our defenseman Dmitry Kostenko is on loan from Spartak this season. The 20-year-old is making the most of the experience, with 3 (2+1) points from 20 games and an average of 10:35 TOI.
Background: There’s been no shortage of goals in Spartak’s recent games, but rather too many have been landing in the Red-and-White net. The team’s last three games ended in 2-4, 4-6 and 3-4 losses. That suggests an offense that can pack a punch against any opposition – the highest-scoring recent performance came against table-topping SKA. However, it also suggests that the D-core is vulnerable.
That’s a bit of a change from our previous meeting. On that occasion, again, Spartak was prone to allowing goals. However, the offense was unable to make the most of its chances. Since then, we’ve seen Phil Varone pick up the pace. The Canadian has 6 (4+2) in the last five games, many of them in partnership with Alexander Khokhlachyov, who has 1+5 in the same series.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa (Nov. 7, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last season: We last played Salavat Yulaev in December and earned a hard-won point from a 3-3 tie. Spencer Foo scored twice and Jason Fram got the tying goal before Ufa won it in overtime. Earlier in the year we suffered a 1-5 loss on the road
Familiar faces: None
Background: In this season’s KHL, any team can beat anyone else. Salavat Yulaev discovered that in its most recent home game before it started this road trip. After back-to-back wins over Ak Bars and a convincing 5-1 triumph against Barys, Viktor Kozlov’s team was in impressive form. However, when Amur, currently at the foot of the Eastern Conference, arrived in Ufa, it managed to grab a shoot-out win.
That game should not detract from an impressive start to the season in Ufa. Salavat Yulaev is up to second place in the East. That success is built on a rock solid defense. With just 43 goals allowed in its first 24 games, no team is less generous. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given the experience on Kozlov’s blue line: Evgeny Biryukov is the all-time leader in KHL games played, while Viktor Antipin and Grigory Panin also have long careers at this level. On offense, the tough task of replacing Ufa’s popular Finnish strike force got tougher when big summer acquisition Josh Ho-Sang suffered a serious injury early in the campaign. However, Alex Chmelevski has risen to the challenge in recent games and is closing on current scoring leader Sergei Shmelyov.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (Nov. 10, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Our recent games against Avtomobilist have been one-sided, and our visit to the Urals earlier this season was no exception, ending in a 1-6 loss.
Familiar faces: Former Dragons defenseman Jesse Blacker remains with Avtomobilist. This season, injuries limited him to just 10 games.
Background: For a time, Avtomobilist boasted the most potent offense in the KHL, with Brooks Macek leading the league in points. Injuries have impacted upon that, with Stephane da Costa and Curtis Valk missing several games. Sergei Shirokov, Alexei Makeyev and Stepan Khripunov remain on the injured list leaving head coach Nikolai Zavarukhin gloomily contemplating inviting a priest to lift the ‘curse’ on his players. Macek, though, is still healthy and remains second in the scoring race behind SKA’s Marat Khairullin.
Despite those problems, his team is still motoring along. Avtomobilist is third in the East, and its 75 goals are bettered only by Metallurg (plus SKA and CSKA in the West). However, there are signs that the injury list is taking its toll. Avto lost four of its last five games, with the only relief coming in a 5-2 win at rock-bottom Sochi.