Light at the end of the tunnel?

9 October 2023

After six straight losses, the Dragons could use a boost. This week’s games bring a trip to a club expecting better from this season, a direct rival for a Western playoff spot and an old foe suffering hard times at the foot of the East. More importantly, we’re closer to seeing some new signings on the ice, and looking forward to more guys returning from injury.


SKA St. Petersburg (a), Oct. 9, 1930 Moscow Time

Last season: Despite playing SKA four times last season, we managed just one point from a shoot-out loss on home ice in December.

Familiar faces: None

Background: This has not been SKA’s finest season. Typically in line to finish among the Western Conference leaders, the Petersburg regiment currently finds itself scrapping on the fringes of the playoffs. Indeed, this game sees both SKA and KRS outside the top eight, with the regulation time winner likely to move above the dotted line. The club underwent a major rebuild during the summer, with some big names – notably Nikita Gusev – leaving. Since then, form has been patchy. After winning the opening two games, SKA suffered an almost unprecedented five-game skid. A trip to the Far East seemed to get things on track, but after four wins there were losses in Sochi and Minsk.

But this remains a powerful opponent, as proved in its previous game when SKA recovered from losing an early goal to beat CSKA 3-2 in Moscow. Monday’s game could represent a home debut for new goalie Nikita Serebrykov, signed from Admiral during the week. He was KHL goalie of the year last season and if he reproduces the consistency he showed in Vladivostok it might be instrumental in smoothing over an uneven start to this campaign.

Dinamo Minsk (h), Oct. 11, 1930 Moscow Time

Last time out: Dinamo came to Mytishchi on September 6 and left on the receiving end of a 4-3 scoreline. Austin Wong’s first KHL goal was the game-winner, with Nolan Moyle scoring his first in pro hockey earlier in the same game.

Familiar faces: Teemu Pulkkinen took to the ice in KRS colors for the first time in practice last week. If he’s ready to play against Dinamo, he’ll be facing his first KHL club. Teemu went to Belarus for 2019/20 and picked up 56 points in 83 games before joining Dynamo Moscow partway through the following season. In addition, young defenseman Nikita Parfenyuk (18 games this season) is on loan to us from the Bison.

Background: It took Dmitry Kvartalnov some time to find the right formula in Minsk. However, recent games suggest that the Bison are on the right path. Dinamo won four of its last five, including victories over SKA, Lokomotiv and Ak Bars. Vitaly Pinchuk has four points in those five games, reinforcing his status as a rising star of Belarusian hockey. The 21-year-old has 13 points already this season; his career best is 14 in last year’s regular season.

Dinamo also went into the transfer market last week, swapping one import defenseman for another. Rob Hamilton arrived from Traktor, with Madison Bowey going the other way. Hamilton marked his debut with two assists in the 4-2 win over SKA.

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (h), Oct. 14, 1600 Moscow Time

Last season: Four meetings last season brought three wins – and an ugly 0-7 loss. The highlight was surely a 7-4 success on home ice in November: Down 0-2 and 2-4, the Dragons hit five unanswered goals in a spectacular third period to grab a spectacular result. Brandon Yip led from the front with a hat-trick.

Familiar faces: The Dragons could renew acquaintance with two former defensemen. Mikhail Sidorov and Nikita Khlystov both represented our club in the past.

Background: With just one regulation win this season, Neftekhimik finds itself at the foot of the Eastern Conference table. That might have head coach Oleg Leontiev worrying about his job security, especially after Barys – the team immediately in front – parted company with Andrei Skabelka. But the Wolves have been here before, making an awful start last season but reshaping the roster and recovering to reach the playoffs.

So the head coach has credit in the bank and that reshuffle could be on the way. Rumor suggests that Andrei Chivilyov, one of the leading prospects on the team, could be in line for a trade. He missed the weekend game at home to Avtomobilist and may have moved on before this game. However, a well-worked trade could add experience and depth to a skilled but struggling roster, which might spark another rise up the standings this term.

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