30 October 2023
The coming week brings four games, including another back-to-back pair. The Dragons finish their latest road trip in Yekaterinburg before heading home to face Torpedo and Severstal (twice). Notwithstanding the varied form of our upcoming opponents, it’s worth noting that historically we don’t have a great record against any of them – something we can improve right now. There’s some big news for our goalies as well. Jeremy Smith, the hardest working man in hockey, earned a richly deserved call-up for the All-Star Game in December. Meanwhile, with Alexander Lazushin still struggling for fitness, Red Star signed 20-year-old Ruslan Yerokhin as a cover goalie. He was on the bench for Sunday’s loss at Traktor but has yet to make his KHL debut. Previously he played in the Junior League, and spent last season in Istanbul with Turkish champion Buz Adamlar.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (a) Oct. 31, 1700 Moscow Time
Last season: In recent years, we’ve suffered some heavy losses to Avtomobilist. Last season was no exception with the Dragons going down 1-6 on the road and 1-5 at home.
Familiar faces: Avto’s Canadian-born Kazakh international defenseman Jesse Blacker began his KHL career with the Dragons. In 2017/18 he has 9 (1+8) points in 49 games with us before moving on to Barys.
Background: It’s high time for an improvement against Avtomobilist. The last 10 head-to-head games between the clubs yielded just one point, from an OT loss in Sep. 2019. Worse, there have been far too many lopsided scorelines in that time. Meanwhile, with the Motormen currently fourth in the East, it would be tempting to suggest that there’s little sign of that changing now.
However, there are some reasons for hope. Avto has struggled over the past couple of weeks, losing five of its last six games. That included a run of three successive home losses against Metallurg (0-4), Amur (1-3) and Sibir (1-3). The most recent game for Nikolai Zavarukhin’s men ended in a 2-4 reverse against Severstal, a team currently in transition under new head coach Andrei Kozyrev.
And this is not the Avtomobilist of old, which tended to score heavily. With 57 goals so far this season, our host has scored less than any other team currently in a playoff spot. Even allowing for our defensive frailties, that gives us reason to believe that some hard work can stem the flow of goals we’ve endured in recent encounters and get into a competitive game against one of our bogey teams.
Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (h) Nov. 2, 1930 Moscow Time
Last time out: This will be the third meeting between the teams this season. So far, Torpedo has enjoyed the better of it, winning 4-2 at home and 5-2 in Mytishchi.
Familiar faces: For us, Brandon McMillan had some time with Torpedo. For them, Igor Larionov Jr. and Alexei Kruchinin had short spells in our colors in the 2020/21 season.
Background: High flying Torpedo is giving youth its fling – and enjoying ample reward. Vasily Atanasov has been one of the revelations of the season, and the 21-year-old currently leads the team in scoring with 25 (12+13) points. He also has a goal and two assists from his previous encounters with the Dragons. Alongside him, Nikita Artamonov is also making waves. Still only 17, he’s already ranked second for KHL points from a U18 player, and in the recent 4-2 win over Avtomobilist he became the first U18 to enjoy a four-point game. His 18th birthday will probably arrive before he can overtake Vladimir Tarasenko as the most productive U18 in KHL history, but Artamonov is definitely a name to remember.
There were signs that things were beginning to slide for Igor Larionov’s team in mid-October. After a stunning 7-1 win at Dynamo Moscow, there came a quiet spell of just two victories in seven games. However, the current form reads three victories from four, suggesting that Torpedo is coming back into form.
Severstal Cherepovets (h), Nov. 5 and 6, both 1600 Moscow Time
Last season: Although Severstal won three out of four meetings last term, there was rarely a big gulf between the teams. One of the games went to a shoot-out, another was a crazy 5-6 loss and the most recent ended in a 3-2 victory for Red Star on the road in February. On that occasion your Dragons jumped to a 3-0 lead before the home team hit back. Tomas Jurco’s goal proved decisive.
Familiar faces: None
Background: This season sees Severstal in something of a transition. Andrei Razin left the club in the summer, and the wily head coach was a big miss. He established the Steelmen as playoff regulars and built a team that played entertaining and effective hockey despite recruiting on a tight budget.
Andrei Kozyrev replaced Razin after working as Igor Larionov’s assistant at Torpedo. Kozyrev brought Larionov’s commitment to attacking play with him and there have been signs that Severstal can stand toe-to-toe with any opponent and trade goals. An outstanding 10-1 win at Sochi was undoubtedly the highlight of the campaign so far, but the Steelmen have been too inconsistent thus far. Kirill Pilipenko is the man in form just now with six points from his last five games; Alexander Skorenov leads the team in scoring with 18 (9+9).