Waiting for reinforcements

3 October 2023

The games keep coming thick and fast, and we’re waiting for our new signings to get involved this week. The addition of Teemu Pulkkinen and Brandon McMillan to the team gives us valuable offensive options, especially on the power play. After Monday’s loss to Dynamo, head coach Viktors Ignatjevs summed up the state of the roster: “[The new guys] need a bit of time, maybe four or five days. And they’re not the only ones we’re waiting for. We have seven guys injured. We’re looking forward to getting them back so that finally we can have our defensemen playing on defense and our forwards playing on offense.”


Vityaz (a), Oct. 4, 1900 Moscow Time

Last season: The Dragons faced Vityaz five times last term, but only managed one victory. That was a 4-0 success on home ice in January, with two goals from Luke Lockhart and a Matt Jurusik shut-out. On the road, we suffered three losses in Balashikha, going down 3-5, 1-2, and 1-5.

Familiar faces: Two former Dragons could feature in Wednesday’s game. Dmitry Shikin’s season with us in 2020/21 brought seven wins in 36 games. However, he may be rested after Monday’s chastening loss to CSKA. Defenseman Ruslan Pedan was also on the team in that COVID-hit campaign, and he contributed 7 (1+6) points in 36 appearances.

Background: It’s been a turbulent week in Balashikha, and it’s still only Tuesday! On Monday, Vityaz suffered a 1-9 hammering at CSKA. That left the team marooned at the foot of the Western Conference with just two wins and five points from 13 games. Tuesday brought the widely expected news that head coach Alexander Zavlyalov had stepped down from his post barely a month after the start of his first KHL campaign behind the bench. Alexei Tertyshny will step in as acting head coach as the club searches for its first regulation-time win of the season.

Any improvement in the club’s fortunes might need a bigger contribution from American forward Derek Barach. He arrived in the summer with high hopes, but has managed just 4 (1+3) points in 13 games so far. With fellow import Scott Wilson injured, Barach will be hoping that a change in coaching can bring an upswing in his personal results, as well as the team’s.

Torpedo (h), Oct. 5, 1930 Moscow Time

Last time out: We visited Nizhny Novgorod on Sep. 14 in a clash of two teams at the top of the early standings. Two goals from Devin Brosseau saw us up 2-0 after 40 minutes, but Torpedo showed its class in the final third to win 5-2.

Familiar faces: This one might come a bit too early for our new signing Brendon McMillan. He moved to Torpedo partway through his first KHL season and picked up 9 (5+4) points in 24 regular season games to help his new club make the playoffs. On the other side, Alexei Kruchinin and Igor Larionov Jr. both had brief spells with the Dragons in 2020/21.

Background: Since our first meeting, things have changed a little. Torpedo remains among the Western Conference leaders, battling for top spot with Lokomotiv and Dynamo Moscow. The Dragons have found things harder – seven players are out injured and a grueling schedule took a toll on results. Youngster Vitaly Atanasov continued to build an impressive reputation: he was on target against Red Star last month and is currently second in team scoring with 12 (7+5) points. Maxim Letunov, whose hat-trick undid us in Nizhny Novgorod is close behind on 10 points.

Spartak (h), Oct. 7, 1300 Moscow Time

Last time out: We made a perfect start to the season when we visited Spartak on Sep. 2. Goals from Devin Brosseau and Spencer Foo got us ahead early on, and further strikes from Jake Chelios and Jason Fram secured a 4-3 victory.

Familiar faces: Check out the Spartak bench, where Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Ulanov are assisting Alexei Zhamnov this season. Both of them worked with us at KRS, with Kovalev serving as head coach in 2020/21.

Background: Consistently inconsistent. That might sum up Spartak’s season to date. Under Alexei Zhamnov, the Red-and-Whites have never won more than two in a row, but equally never suffered more than two successive losses. It all adds up to seven wins and seven losses in the first 14 games and a mid-table position in the West.

If there’s a worry, it might be that so far Spartak has not made much of an impact against the stronger teams in the league. A 3-0 win at SKA was impressive, but derby meeting with CSKA and Dynamo ended in defeats. Monday’s game at home to Lokomotiv also saw the visitor take the verdict, collecting the points that moved it to the top of the standings. Moreover, there are signs that things can go wrong against less-hallowed opposition: a 2-6 reverse against an Admiral team that is struggling to match last season’s form remains the low point of the campaign to date.

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