Basement battlers and high flyers

24 November 2022

The Dragons wrap up their November schedule with two home games. The opposition could hardly be more different: first we entertain a Sochi team struggling at the foot of the Western Conference. Then we welcome Metallurg to Mytishchi, with the Steelmen battling for top spot in the East.

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HC Sochi (Nov. 25, 1930 Moscow Time)

Last time out: The Leopards visited us in September, and a pair of third-period goals from Parker Foo gave the Dragons a 3-1 verdict.

Familiar faces: None

Background: Things have changed since our previous meeting with Sochi. Head coach Andrei Nazarov was dismissed with the Leopards adrift at the foot of the standings and Sergei Svetlov took over behind the bench. It’s a repeat of last season for the club, which brought in Nazarov to lead the recovery from a slow start under Evgeny Stavrovsky. While the pugnacious approach favored by Nazarov gave a short-term lift, it was unable to deliver a lasting effect. Svetlov’s arrival has brought a more competitive Sochi.

However, Svetlov has injury problems to contend with. Goalie Mikhail Berdin was brought into the club to stop the team leaking goals but has managed just three appearances. That’s seen Sochi forced to use young Arseny Pleshkov alongside Maxim Tretiak. Canadian defenseman Joe Morrow and promising young Russian blue liner Danila Galenyuk are also long-term absentees. Among the forwards, Kirill Petkov and Artyom Fyodorov are currently unavailable.

Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Nov. 29, 1900 Moscow Time)

Last time out: Our trip to Magnitogorsk in late September ended in a 0-4 loss. Two power play goals from Andrei Chibisov did the damage.

Familiar faces: Dragons goalie Alexei Murygin had a short spell with Magnitka in 2015. He played seven regular season games, did not feature in the playoffs, and moved to Lokomotiv at the end of the season.

Background: Metallurg has always been a challenging opponent for the Dragons. In 18 meetings – including five playoff encounters – Kunlun has won just three times. The most recent of those came on home ice in 2020, when Alexei Kovalev masterminded a 6-4 win, helped by goals from Ethan Werek and Jason Fram.

This season, Ilya Vorobyov has his team challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference. At the time of writing, the Steelmen are second to Avtomobilist. That’s thanks in no small part to one of the most potent offenses in the KHL with 100 goals in 33 games. Philippe Maillet (24 points, including six in his last five games) and Brendan Leipsic (21) lead the way; Nikolai Goldobin was expected to complete the top line but has found himself in and out of the team.

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