From top to bottom

24 January 2024

This week’s Red Star action sees the Dragons host one of the Western Conference’s high flyers before heading south to take on the league’s basement team.

QZN 1305

Dynamo Moscow (h), Jan. 25, 1930 Moscow Time

Last time out: The highlight of our previous encounters with the Blue-and-Whites was undoubtedly our OT win in Moscow on Nov. 8. Brandon McMillan’s goal gave us a first-ever win over Dynamo on that day, immediately putting the game among this season’s highlights. Aside from that, we suffered a narrow loss on home ice in October, and a 1-7 thumping in Moscow at the start of this year.

Familiar faces: Dynamo was the second stop on Teemu Pulkkinen’s KHL tour. Our Finnish forward played there in 2019/20 and for part of the following season. Since joining the Dragons, Teemu has picked up two assists against his old club. Before that, goalie Alexander Lazushin had four seasons with the capital club from 2013-17.

Background: Impressive for much of this season, Dynamo was the second team to secure its playoff place. Since then, though, there are signs that Alexei Kudashov’s team may be relaxing a little. A 1-2 loss at home to Neftekhimik ended a long winning streak. Then came a 3-6 defeat against derby rival Spartak, with Maxim Tsyplakov scoring four goals. In that game, Spartak powered to a 6-1 lead before a couple of third-period consolation efforts made the final score somewhat respectable.

Despite that blip, there’s much to admire at Dynamo this season. Nikita Gusev leads the league in scoring, having cleared the 70-point mark. He’s on a personal hot streak, with 9 (2+7) points in his past five appearances. Cedric Paquette has four goals in that span, making him another one to watch on Thursday.

HC Sochi (a), Jan 28, 1700 Moscow Time, and Jan. 29, 1930 Moscow Time

Last time out: We’ve played Sochi twice at home this season, and won both of them. On Sep. 4, Jeremy Smith made 29 saves and goals from Brandon Yip, Devin Brosseau and Luke Lockhart brought a 3-0 win. In early December, Luke and Yipper were on target again, with the latter grabbing the OT winner after a 4-4 tie.

Familiar faces: Young forward Alexander Perevalov was on loan with us last season, playing 27 games and scoring 3 (2+1) points. During this season he left Lokomotiv and continued his career within Sochi’s system.

Background: It’s a journey from top to bottom this week. After hosting a Dynamo team looking to lead the way in the West, we travel to Sochi where the Leopards are looking to get off the foot of the standings. A dismal 15-game losing streak came to an end last week when Dmitry Kokorev’s team beat Ak Bars 3-1 on home ice. Then came a shoot-out win at Lada, albeit with a 1-6 reverse at Traktor in between. It’s too late for Sochi to save its season, but the home team will be eager to salvage some pride – and for many players it’s a last chance to try to secure a contract for next term.

Given Sochi’s problems this season, it’s not easy to pick out a leading performer. Matvei Michkov, one of the brightest prospects in Russian hockey, has struggled with injuries – although he has made a decent contribution during his latest loan from SKA. Artur Tyanulin leads the team in scoring with a respectable 35 points from 49 appearances. But defensively, things have been tough. No other team is close to the 208 goals allowed in 54 games to date and when the best goalie on the roster, Mikhail Berdin, has a GAA of 3.26, it’s clear that this team needs a tighter defense.

Our first trip to the Black Sea coast this season brings back-to-back games. The Dragons have won 14 of the previous 20 meetings between the teams.

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