30 January 2024
After back-to-back wins in Sochi, the Dragons return to Mytishchi for only our third home game in January. The coming week sees us entertain Vityaz and Admiral before making the short trip across Moscow Region for a return engagement in Balashikha on Sunday.
Vityaz Moscow Region, Jan. 31 (h) 1930 Moscow Time; Feb. 4 (a) 1400 Moscow Time
Last time out: We last faced Vityaz on Oct. 4, suffering a 2-1 loss in Balashikha. Devin Brosseau was the Dragons’ scorer that day.
Familiar faces: Goalie Dmitry Shikin did well for us in the 2020/21 season. Last year he helped Vityaz to the playoffs, but he’s found things tough this term. In front of him, defenseman Ruslan Pedan also featured for the Dragons in 2020/21. Among our players, Tyler Graovac had 20 points in 49 games last season to get Vityaz to the playoffs. He also made three post season appearances.
Background: Bottom of the Western Conference with just 116 goals scored so far this season, Vityaz has failed to build on last season’s run to the playoffs. Head coach Vyacheslav Butsayev left in the summer, replaced by his assistant Alexander Zavyalov. However, the change did not work out and by October Dmitry Ryabykin was settling in behind the bench.
However, Ryabykin was unable to turn the club’s slow start into a stronger run of form. Apart from a four-game winning streak in mid-November, there has been little to celebrate in Balashikha. On offense, the team misses Stepan Starkov. Not only did he contribute 39 points of his own, he appears to have been something of a catalyst. More frustrating, Starkov has been sparingly used at SKA this season. With another leading scorer, Scott Wilson, limited to 28 games, it’s not hard to understand why scoring has been a problem.
At the other end, Maxim Dorozhko has produced some impressive performance in goal. However, it’s hard to win without scoring and all too often Maxim has been battling to keep his team in contention rather than to protect a winning position.
Admiral Vladivostok, Feb. 2 (h) 1930 Moscow Time
Last time out: In late September we made the long trip to Vladivostok and left on the wrong end of a 1-3 scoreline.
Familiar faces: It’s a quick reunion for forwards Cliff Pu and Tyler Graovac. Tyler joined us from Admiral in November, and has since scored 7 (3+4) points in 20 games. Cliff, meanwhile, left us for Admiral at the end of December. He recently scored his first goal for his new club in a 5-4 win over Salavat Yulaev. Our goalie Alexander Lazushin also played 11 games for Admiral last season.
Background: That win over Ufa keeps Admiral off the foot of the Eastern Conference. However, Leonids Tambijevs’ team seems unlikely to repeat last year’s run to the playoffs. The Sailors trail eighth-placed Neftekhimik by 12 points with games running out. Goals have been a problem: 121 scored is the lowest in the East, and second only to Vityaz in the KHL as a whole. Much of the scoring has been carried by Daniil Gutik (30 points) and Dmitry Buchelnikov (22). However, it’s a big ask for two players in their early 20s to lift a team into the playoffs.
Admiral had other problems. Early in the season, goalie Nikita Serebryakov was traded to SKA. He was a huge part of last season’s progress. More recently, his replacement Pavel Khomchenko joined Avangard. That kind of disruption at the back has not helped stabilize the team’s results. On the plus side, Libor Sulak, captain last season, rejoined after a short spell in Omsk. So far, though, the Czech has not been able to inspire the same performances we saw a year ago.