Spartak, 2 G, 95.3 saves percentage, 1.44 goals-against average, 1 shutout
After missing most of the first month of the regular season, Julius Hudacek returned backstopping the Spartak's crease on September 26, and it was a success right away. In a tight game against the Eastern Conference leader – Avtomobilist – the Slovak netminder had a fantastic 28-save shutout as Spartak got two points thanks to a goal by Martins Karsums. Two days later, Hudacek again led Spartak to a huge win over Avangard in Balashikha with a 33-save, SO win. Spartak is currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and chances are good that the team led by Oleg Znarok will be a hard client for anyone in the playoffs.
Dinamo Minsk, 3 G, 5 (1+4) points, +4
Dinamo Minsk lost all its three games last week, but as all finished on OT or SO, they managed to gain three fundamental points. One of the best players for the Belarusian franchise was Shane Prince. The American forward, at his second season in the league after scoring 19 points in 30 games last season with Sibir, started the week posting a helper in Dinamo's loss to Torpedo on Thursday. Two days later, Prince had a fantastic match against Severstal, when he had one goal and one assist, but Dinamo once again lost 3-2 after SO. On Saturday, the forward was once again productive as he posted two assists in Minsk's SO loss in Nizhnekamsk. Dinamo is now fighting for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and Prince's production will have a crucial role.
Ak Bars, 3 G, 5 (1+4) points, +4
The Canadian forward didn't have a good start of the season with Ak Bars, but last week he was nothing short of exceptional for Kazan. Matthew Frattin was silent when Ak Bars lost to Sibir 2-4 in Novosibirsk on Monday, but he had a breakthrough performance on the next two days when the Tatarstan franchise picked up big-time wins over Traktor and Kunlun. In Chelyabinsk, Frattin had two assists, and he posted one goal and two helpers in the next game, won 5-0 by Kazan, including assisting on Vyacheslav Osnovin's game-winner. With these two big performances, the Canadian player may have got the ball rolling and started producing at an acceptable pace.
SKA, 3 G, 4 (2+2) points, +5
SKA is improving since the start of the season, and it's not a case that the Finnish international started racking up points. Lehtera opened the week with an assist on SKA's loss to CSKA in the second Army Derby of the season. Three days later, he repeated the feat, but this time SKA came out victorious over Salavat Yulaev with a 4-1 score. On Saturday, Jori Lehtera played his best hockey of the season when he posted a double in SKA's triumph over Dynamo Moscow – he had both the opening and closing goals of the night. That night, the Finn veteran was instrumental on the dots, winning 10 of his 13 faceoffs. SKA remains one of the teams to beat in the Western Conference, and Lehtera's performance will be a crucial part of its success.
Dinamo Minsk, 3 G, 3 (1+2) points, +1
Marc-Andre Gragnani is famed for his ability to eat up minutes on the blue line. In the Thursday's game against Severstal, the Canadian defenseman logged a season-high of 30 minutes and 30 seconds. But other than for his excellent stamina, the blueliner is also well-known for his offensive production. Gragnani started the week posting two helpers in Minsk's losing effort against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. After being silent against Severstal (but recording a whopping 37 shifts), Gragnani scored the tentative 2-2 goal in the second period of Saturday's game against Neftekhimik, that Dinamo Minsk then lost 5-4 SO. If Dinamo Minsk is now on a great position to get to the playoffs, it's also thanks to Gragnani's efforts.