15 November 2023
After two wins from three on the road, and a high-scoring loss in the third game of the trip, there’s renewed confidence ahead of this week’s action. Lokomotiv and Sibir promise to provide tough opposition, but there’s reason to believe we can pick up more points from our encounters this week, with both teams having some identifiable weaknesses as well as their obvious strengths.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (a), Nov. 16, 1900 Moscow Time
Last time out: The Dragons played Loko twice in September, going down 1-2 in Yaroslavl and 0-4 on home ice.
Familiar faces: Teemu Pulkkinen is preparing to face another of his former clubs. Our Finnish forward joined Lokomotiv partway the 2020/21 season and contributed 9 (7+2) points to the team’s playoff campaign that year.
Background: In the latter half of October, Lokomotiv showed signs of running off the rails. Igor Nikitin’s team, normally renowned for its consistency, stumbled through a sequence of six losses in seven games starting Oct. 15. A trip out east brought some signs of recovery, with the Railwaymen winning three from four on the road. However, even within that sequence, a 2-5 reverse at struggling Admiral suggests that the team is not firing on all cylinders just yet.
What can we expect from our third match-up of the season? Well, we all know that Nikitin likes his teams to play very structured, disciplined hockey. There’s something of a siege mentality in the locker room. In the face of criticism of Lokomotiv’s lack of flair, young forward Daniil Tesanov recently told KHL.ru: “Usually it’s the teams that we beat who criticize our style. It’s mostly fans and journalists who talk about it, and thanks to them our team gets more and more haters. But let them get on with it. It means they’ll pay more attention to us.”
For our part, we’ll need to pay attention to 18-year-old prospect Daniil But in Thursday’s game. The teenager has hit a hot streak with six (2+4) points in his last three games. Maxim Shalunov continues to lead the team in scoring, while another rising star, Yaroslav Likhachyov, has 16 (8+8) points from 25 games as he builds on impressive season on loan at Amur last term.
Sibir Novosibirsk (h), Nov. 19, 1600 Moscow Time
Last season: We played Sibir twice in September 2022, losing out in a shoot-out at home and suffering a 0-4 loss in Novosibirsk.
Familiar faces: We know all about Taylor Beck’s qualities from his time in the Dragons’ Lair. Now he leads Sibir in scoring with 26 points, and added two assists to his collection in Tuesday’s home win over Torpedo. Fellow Canadian Trevor Murphy is also fondly remembered from his time with the Dragons. However, he’s unlikely to feature this season after playing just four games before getting injured.
Background: This looks to be a transition season for Sibir. New head coach David Nemirovsky arrived in the summer and his mandate is to recreate the attacking style he had at Torpedo in his previous KHL gig. However, the new-look line-up is taking time to adjust. There have been some notable victories, including a battling OT win at Ak Bars and a home success that halted Spartak’s long winning streak. But these have been mixed with some disappointing losses – none more than the 1-6 reverse at home to Avtomobilist early in the season.
That was only Sibir’s second game at the impressive new arena in Novosibirsk. So far, results suggest that Nemirovsky’s team doesn’t feel entirely at home there. With 16 points from a possible 30 on home ice, the record so far is decidedly mid-table. On the road, things are similar: seven wins from 15 games, albeit only three in regulation.
Apart from Taylor Beck’s scoring, Nemirovsky also relies heavily on goalie Anton Krasotkin, who was rewarded with a first ever All-Star call (he’ll be joining our own Jeremy Smith as a debutant at the big event in Petersburg next month). However, for a coach who favors attacking play, he is struggling to get goals: only three forwards are in double figures for points this season (Beck, Butuzov and Prokhorkin), which tells its own story of where Sibir’s problems lie.