There’s a new name near the top of the scoring charts, a new forward emerging at CSKA and a new NHLer heading to Metallurg.
There’s an unfamiliar name near the top of the KHL scoring charts. Dinamo Riga defenseman Mathew Maione’s goal in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Admiral moved him to 21 (5+16) points for the season. That haul is currently second only to SKA’s much-titled Olympic champion Nikita Gusev. The 27-year-old is something of a late bloomer, moving into pro hockey as recently as 2014 after graduating college. High-scoring stints in the minor leagues led to a move to Europe, where he picked up a Slovak title with Banska Bystrica before being named the most entertaining player in the Finnish league during a season with KalPa. Now in Riga, he’s become a dominant force on the Dinamo power play and, alongside free-scoring forward Linus Videll, he’s revitalized a team that has long struggled to get into the playoff picture.
Avtomobilist’s 1-0 victory at home to Salavat Yulaev on Sunday evening makes it 18 consecutive wins since the start of the season. Andrei Martemyanov’s men could stretch that to an all-time record 21-game winning start in the coming week. On Tuesday, the team entertains Barys before setting off on its next road trip. That takes in Severstal on Friday and Lokomotiv on Sunday. Victory in all three games would beat SKA’s record start from last season.
In any other week, Denis Platonov’s 800th game for Metallurg would have featured here. Sergei Mozyakin’s 1,000th game in Russian Championship hockey could have got the nod. Those two milestones occurred in the same game when Magnitka hosted Avtomobilist on Wednesday. But Zinetula Bilyaletdinov racked up the biggest number of the week as he celebrated 1,100 games behind the bench in top-flight Russian hockey. In the KHL era, he’s worked exclusively with Ak Bars – winning three Gagarin Cups and leaving Kazan only for a stint with Team Russia at the Sochi Olympics. In the Russian Super League, he won the title twice; once with Dynamo Moscow, once with Ak Bars. In typical fashion, the milestone came with another victory – 5-1 over HC Sochi.
Former LA Kings forward Nick Shore is on his way to the KHL. The Colorado native is expected in Magnitogorsk on Thursday after agreeing a one-year deal with Metallurg. The 26-year-old, a Calder Cup winner in 2015, made a total of 237 NHL appearances and scored 53 (15+38) points. Last season, after leaving the Kings, he had brief spells with Ottawa and Calgary before becoming a free agent.
Teenage forward Nikita Rtishchev got his first ever KHL goal in his third appearance for CSKA. The 18-year-old scored his team’s third in a 5-0 win over Amur, applying the redirect to a Klas Dahlback shot. Igor Nikitin, head coach of the Army Men, is excited by the latest prospect to emerge at the club: “Nikita’s a good guy, he works hard and he’s got everything ahead of him if he keeps that up,” he said after the game. The youngster, meanwhile, is setting bigger goals for himself and his team. “Of course I made sure I got the puck as a souvenir, it’s a historical moment for me,” he said. “And I’d love to get another goal in the next game against Kunlun. The sooner the better! CSKA is on a great run at the moment, we’re playing some wonderful hockey and I hope we can keep it up as long as possible and start breaking some records.”
Some days, it just doesn’t go to plan. Avangard anticipated a penalty on Barys, pulled the goalie in favor of an extra attacker … and gave up a goal. Mikhail Fisenko’s attempted pass to Andrei Stas bobbled away down the ice, Nikita Mikhailis gave chase before realizing that if he touch the puck play would stop and Avangard could not get back in time to stop the disc sliding into the net. Dustin Boyd was credited with the goal; Avangard recovered to win 5-3.