Chris Lee, Alexei Bereglazov and, of course, Vadim Shipachyov. Three players linked by their return to the KHL this week. Lee and Bereglazov are back at Metallurg, while Shipachyov was quickly back on the goal trail for SKA. Elsewhere, Salavat Yulaev’s indifferent form hasn’t been enough to persuade Danish international Philip Larsen that he made the wrong choice in heading to Ufa while, off the ice, the KHL plans to get tough on drug cheats.
After four successful seasons in Magnitogorsk, Chris Lee headed back across the Atlantic last summer. But this week he returned to the Urals to resume his role on the blue line. In an exclusive interview with KHL.ru, he explained why.
“I wouldn’t say Magnitogorsk was my only option, but having decided to come back to Russia, it was at the top of my list,” he said. “After the great way the club treated me, and all the success we had, I’d be crazy not to want to come back.
“I had a shot at camp with Los Angeles. There was interest from other teams, but I decided to try out for the Kings. I had a good camp, but for some reason it just didn’t work out. I was happy with the way I played, and there was still interest from elsewhere, but no concrete offers of a one-way contract. I didn’t want to risk my eligibility for the Olympics, so here I am.” Lee, now 37, was the only KHLer to play for Canada in last May’s World Championship. He also featured on the roster at the Karjala Cup and is widely tipped to feature in the team’s plans for Korea.
The Vadim Shipachyov saga was one of the biggest talking points in Russian hockey at the start of the season. After arriving in Las Vegas as something of a marquee signing, nobody expected to see the SKA forward sent off to a farm club before he’d even suited up in the NHL. Despite a brief taste of the big show (three games, one goal), it was clear that all was not well and before long the 30-year-old and his family were on a plane back to Russia.
Back home, Shipachyov slotted in like he’d never been away. In three appearances for SKA last week he scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win at Admiral and picked up two assists in a Kovalchuk-inspired 8-1 thrashing of Kunlun Red Star. And now, he’s in with a shot at the Olympic roster. The Vegas gamble may not have paid off, but Shipachyov could yet hit the jackpot this season.
Chris Lee isn’t the only familiar face back on Magnitka’s blue line. Alexei Bereglazov has also come back to Russia after Metallurg reached an agreement with the New York Rangers. The Rangers effectively loaned their player to Russia rather than keep him playing AHL hockey and – so far – the move seems to be working out. Since his return, Metallurg has seven points from three games – and back-to-back shut-outs against Severstal and Dinamo Riga as the new-look blue line takes shape under Viktor Kozlov, recently confirmed as head coach.
Defenseman Philip Larsen turned down the chance to remain in the NHL when he learned that Erkka Westerlund’s Salavat Yulaev was interested in hiring him. But as the Ufa team slipped to a fifth loss in six games, questions about the head coach’s future were heard ever more loudly. But not where the experienced Dane was involved.
“I had chances to stay in the NHL but I wanted to play with Erkka,” Larsen said in an exclusive interview with KHL.ru. “I believe in his hockey philosophy. When I got the offer, I realized that I could not pass up this chance.”
As for the team’s recent problems, that’s an issue for the players. “The problem is not with the coaches, the management or the owners,” he said. “It’s the players that have to do what needs to be done, to go out on the ice and find a way to win.”
Stirring words were followed on Sunday by a much-needed victory: Salavat Yulaev won 3-1 at HC Sochi, easing some of the pressure around the club.
The KHL has no place for anyone involved with doping. Despite the recent isolation of Russia from the world anti-doping campaign – compounded by the suspension of RUSADA’s activities – the KHL is determined to remain highly vigilant in tackling any doping violation. As part of the seven-year plan for the league through to 2023, a document presented to the executive committee last week, there will be on-going increases in the number of drug tests, up 10% each season, and an anti-doping education program developed to support players and club staff in reinforcing the message that drug cheats have no part in the game.
In the final CIBC Canada Russia Series match, the under 20 Russian national team defeated Team QMJHL 2:1, forcing a penalty shootout to see who was going to win the Series. Maxime Comtois scored the only shootout goal, sealing Canada's Super Series victory.
KHL announced launch of 2018 All-Star Week official website. The festivities will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan from January 10th to January 14th, 2018. JHL Challenge Cup will take place at Barys-Arena on January 11th. Also tickets for 2018 Challenge Cup are now available on All-Star Week official website.
On November 16th, before the Krylja Sovetov - MHK Dinamo SPb match a personalized banner of the world class master of sports, Krylja Sovetov player and nowadays sporting director of JHL Igor Romashin was raised to the rafters of ice palace. Romashin then dropped the puck on the ceremonial faceoff and signed autographs before the match.
Last week saw six more matches – three pairs of back-to-back games - played in the Women's Hockey League.
In Nizhny Novgorod, host Skif welcomed Arctic University of Ukhta; in Yekaterinburg, Dynamo Saint Peterburg were the guests of the team representing Sverdlovsk Region; while in Ufa, there was a Clash of the Titans between the top two teams from the previous championship, Agidel and Tornado.
The two match-ups between Sverdlovsk Region and Dynamo went the way the form book would have predicted. Not even home ice could help the Yekaterinburg women take points from the Petersburg team, who duly recorded two emphatic wins. The final scores: 1-7 and 1-9.
The games between Skif and Arctic University were also a little one-sided, but this time the celebrations took place in the home team locker room. The Nizhny Novgorod women won 5-2 and 4-1 to add 6 more points to their account.
The most fascinating contests came at the weekend, in Ufa, between the host, last year's silver-medalist and the current season's pace-setter, Agidel, and the reigning champion, Tornado of Moscow Region. Even the opposing head coaches, Agidel's Denis Afinogenov and Tornado's Alexei Chistyakov, later agreed that the games were very closely-fought contests, and the history of meetings between the two sides had shown five wins apiece..
The first part of the drama, and indeed, the Ufa women's first game on home ice of the 2017-18 WHL season, ended with the host keeping the Moscow Region women off the scoreboard and recording a 2-0 victory. Things were even tighter in the re-match, and regulation time was unable to produce a winner, but Agidel persevered to triumph in overtime. Thus, Tornado returned home with 1 point, while Agidel banked 4 to further strengthen its place at the top of the Championship standings.
Skif is in second spot, having made up a little ground on the leaders, while third place currently belongs to Dynamo Saint Petersburg.
In the coming days, Agidel awaits the visit of Arctic University, with the games scheduled for the 22 and 23 of November. While Dynamo Saint Petersburg embarks for Krasnoyarsk to test its mettle against Biryusa, and Skif prepares to face off in Nizhny Novgorod against Tornado.