One last push before the break

1 December 2022


The first phase of the KHL season has been a breathless rush of games – but at last a break is in sight. The All-Star Week starts in Chelyabinsk on Saturday, and next weekend sees a pause in the championship to enable Brandon Yip to represent our club at the league’s annual showcase event. Before that, though, there are four more games to play. The Dragons are preparing to welcome Dynamo Moscow, SKA and Vityaz to Mytishchi before wrapping up more than three months of almost unbroken action with a trip to Lokomotiv.

Dynamo Moscow (home, Dec. 2, 1900 Moscow Time)

Last time out: Friday’s game is our third meeting with the Blue-and-Whites this season. The opposition took the first two games, edging an overtime verdict in Mytishchi in early October before getting a 5-3 win on home ice two weeks ago.

Familiar faces: None.

Background: Dynamo’s recent form has been frustrating. Alexei Kudashov’s team is capable of pulling off good results, but also suffers from the occasional disaster. A 2-6 loss at home to Dinamo Minsk was a recent example of the latter, with the Muscovites racing into a 2-0 lead only to fall apart alarmingly against a modest opponent. Despite his team’s inconsistency, import forward Jordan Weal is on a hot streak. The Canadian’s assist in Wednesday’s overtime victory against Vityaz extends his productive run to seven games. He has 9 (4+5) points in that spell.

SKA St. Petersburg (home, Dec. 4, 1700 Moscow Time)

Last time out: Although it remains true that KRS has just one victory over SKA in its history, the games this season were far from one-sided. On home ice, we played out a nine-goal thriller in late September before suffering a 3-6 loss. Garet Hunt scored his first goal for the club in that game. A month later in Petersburg it was tighter still: Marat Khusnutdinov’s third-period goal gave the home team a 3-2 verdict.

Familiar faces: None

Background: History suggests we rarely get much joy from our encounters with SKA. However, there has been encouragement in our performances this term. While the results are the same as ever, the Dragons have twice given the league leader something to think about. However, our guys will need to be at their very best to get anything from this game. After a run of uneven form, SKA is showing ominous signs of getting back to the kind of form that saw it power to the top of the table. Roman Rotenberg’s team has three wins from the last four games, scoring 18 times in those outings. Nikita Gusev is a particular threat: in 12 appearances so far this season, he has 19 (9+10) points and has managed five multi-point games.

Vityaz Moscow Region (home, Dec. 6, 1900 Moscow Time)

Last time out: Two late goals cost Kunlun in a rollercoaster game in Balashikha. Red Star was up 2-0, then down 2-3 before tying the game late in the second on a Cliff Pu marker. But the home team scored twice in the last 10 minutes to take a 5-3 verdict.

Familiar faces: Two Vityaz goaltenders had time in the Dragons’ Lair. Dmitry Shikin was a big player for us, playing 36 times in 2020/21 as we struggled to keep the team afloat during the height of the pandemic. Igor Saprykin was also on the books during that campaign but his only appearance for us came in the following season before he returned to Vityaz.

Background: If our hopes of getting into the playoff places are to amount to anything, this is the kind of game we have to win. Vityaz is eighth at the time of writing, but the gap to them is nine points. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a substantial deficit to claw back. Interestingly, the difference lies not so much in games won, as in Vityaz’ ability to force teams into overtime. It’s rare to see Vyacheslav Butsayev’s men overwhelmed by any opponent, even if there are some weaknesses on defense that could be exploited. Going forward, Stanley Cup winner Scott Wilson is in a strong run of form. However, he may also be one of the unluckiest players in the KHL. His hat-trick at CSKA would have been a real headline grabber, except for the opposition fighting back from 0-3 to win the game.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (away, Dec. 8, 1900 Moscow Time)

Last time out: When we visited Yaroslavl last month, Red Star secured a shoot-out victory. Our guys led twice in regulation on goals from Alex Riche and Tyler Wong. Loko managed to force the extras, but Josh Nicholls handed us the verdict in the shoot-out.

Familiar faces: We have two Lokomotiv connections at opposite ends of their careers. Goalie Alexei Murygin is a veteran, brought in to provide cover and help the KRS youngsters learn from his experience. He enjoyed many of his best years at Lokomotiv, where he set a KHL record shut-out streak. By contrast, Alex Perevalov has it all ahead of him. The teenager forward is on loan to us from Lokomotiv and this season is giving him a taste of what he needs to transform prolific scoring at junior level into the real deal at the top of the sport. A game-winning double against CSKA sticks in the mind, and suggests that Perevalov could be a name to watch in future.

Background: The Dragons are looking to make it back-to-back wins over the Railwaymen for the first time. However, while Yaroslavl has never been a happy hunting ground, our victory here last time out was not completely out of the blue. Our two trips in 2021 were both close games, losing by the odd goal each time. Lokomotiv comes into this game in good form, with four straight wins. They include a shoot-out success at SKA and a hard-fought home verdict against Avangard. Throughout the season, Lokomotiv has shared its scoring among its players. That said, young Stepan Nikulin has stepped up in the last few games with 5 (2+3) points. His contribution helped to power a streak that moved Igor Nikitin’s men up to third in the West.

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