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Kovalchuk plays on. January 8 round-up


Ilya Kovalchuk remains a KHL player – for now. The SKA forward took to the ice against Ak Bars, even though his clubmates Sergei Bobrovsky and Vladimir Tarasenko have already set off for Columbus and St Louis. While most locked out NHL players have already booked their flights home, Kovalchuk told Sport Express he is in no hurry to return without scrutinizing the fine print of the deal reached in New York over the weekend.

However, his presence was not enough to help SKA escape a 3-1 defeat at Ak Bars. That win, built around powerplay goals from Danis Zaripov and Kirill Petrov in the second period, puts the Kazan side back on top of the Eastern Conference. Kovi didn’t trouble the scorers, with Patrik Thoresen getting SKA’s consolation late on.

CSKA struggles without big names
Pavel Datsyuk was left out as he prepared to return to Detroit and Alexander Radulov was reportedly dropped for disciplinary reasons – and CSKA made hard work of beating struggling Avtomobilist 4-3 in a shoot-out. Oleg Kvasha got the vital goal in the shoot-out, but only after the KHL’s bottom side had stunned home fans by opening up a 2-0 lead inside the first seven minutes. CSKA turned it round by the halfway mark, with Igor Radulov getting the go-ahead goal, but Stanislav Zhmakin tied it up again in the third to take the game to overtime.

Vasilevsky’s dream debut
Young goalie Andrei Vasilevsky kept Dynamo Moscow at bay on his first appearance in Salavat Yulaev’s starting line-up – and even claimed an assist on the game’s only goal. Vasilevsky, aged just 18, made 25 saves for his shut-out to make a sensational start to senior hockey just days after helping Russia’s under-20s to World Championship bronze on the same Ufa ice.

The winning score came after 10 minutes when Vasilevsky’s clearance saw Igor Mirnov racing clear on Dynamo’s goal to beat Alexander Sharychenkov. For Dynamo, with just two days to adjust to life without Alexander Ovechkin, Leonid Komarov or Nicklas Backstrom, there was no way back into the game.

Life after Malkin
Metallurg Magnitogorsk was one of the first clubs to confirm a big-name NHL signing, but even after the likes of Malkin, Kulemin and Gonchar left a strong North American connection proved too good for Lev Prague. Cal O’Reilly, once a colleague of Malkin’s in Pittsburgh, took the honors with 1+2 in his team’s 5-2 win, figures matched by Mats Zuccarello. Another American, Justin Hodgman, also scored.

Around the league
Even without Semyon Varlamov, Lokomotiv was too strong for Dinamo Minsk. Alexander Guskov scored twice in a 4-1 win in Yaroslavl.

Torpedo’s play-off hopes took a knock with a 1-3 home reverse against struggling Vityaz. Evgeny Timkin and Pavel Chernov opened up a 2-0 lead which proved too much for the Nizhny Novgorod side.

Spartak left it late to shock Donbass and sent the Ukrainian side away with a 3-1 defeat. Vaclav Nedorost opened the scoring for Donetsk early in the second, but three goals in the last eight minutes saw Spartak turn it round. Branko Radivojevic got the game-winner on 57:38.

Mikhail Anisin got his first goal for new club Severstal, helping the Cherepovets team to a 3-0 win at Atlant.

Roman Kukumberg’s overtime winner spared Slovan’s blushes after the Slovak side twice let slip winning positions at home to Traktor. The hosts led 2-0, then 3-2, but were denied with 24 seconds left to play when Konstantin Panov tied it up and took it to overtime.