25 December 2022
The Dragons are finishing 2022 strongly. Greg Ireland’s team has won three of its last four, and wraps up the year with a couple of home games. Positive results against Torpedo and Lokomotiv next week could go a long way towards keeping our playoff push alive when we return to the ice in 2023.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Dec. 26, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: We’ve had tough times against Torpedo this season, losing twice in Nizhny Novgorod and suffering a 0-5 defeat in our previous home game.
Familiar faces: Our goalie Alexei Murygin was on Torpedo’s books last season as he made his return after serious illness. In the opposition ranks, both Igor Larionov Jr and Alexei Kruchinin have played for the Dragons in the past.
Background: Torpedo continues to battle for a top-four finish in the Western Conference. That would make for the team’s best season since 2014, when it tied for fourth place in the East alongside Salavat Yulaev. The transformation has been wrought by Igor Larionov, whose commitment to attractive, attacking hockey has helped propel Nizhny Novgorod up the standings.
The current Torpedo roster is not built around big names. Instead, Larionov recruited astutely in the summer. Acquisitions like Nikolai Kovalenko, who had an indifferent season at Ak Bars last time around, have blossomed: Kovalenko has 6 (4+2) points in his last five games and his 30-point haul to date is a career high for the 23-year-old. Moreover, he is just one of a clutch of players enjoying career high points, all of which helps to compensate for the absence of injured import Kenny Agostino.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Dec. 28, 1900 Moscow Time)
Last time out: Our last trip to Yaroslavl brought a memorable return to action for Matt Jurusik. Our goalie returned from injury to blank Loko with 47 saves in a 1-0 verdict. That was the Dragons’ second win in Yaroslavl this season, having previously failed to win in the Golden Ring city.
Familiar faces: Alex Perevalov has 3 (2+1) points in 27 games after joining us on loan from Lokomotiv for this season. In addition, goaltender Murygin spent some of his best seasons in Yaroslavl where he set a KHL shut-out record.
Background: It’s a long time since we last entertained Lokomotiv. Last season’s home game did not take place due to the early end to the regular season. The previous campaign, Lokomotiv was in quarantine and forfeited its game at KRS. So, you have to go back to 2019 for the Railwaymen’s last visit to the Dragons’ Lair. Much has changed since then, with Igor Nikitin’s team currently riding high in the Western Conference. Loko is second in the standings and has genuine hopes of ending the long-standing hegemony of SKA and CSKA in the West.
Not for the first time, Yaroslavl owes a good chunk of its success to the emergence of a crop of young talent. 21-year-old forward Stepan Nikulin is enjoying a breakthrough campaign, and his 24 (7+17) points so far have him among the contenders for the rookie of the year award.