Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
F, Traktor Chelyabinsk, 3 G 5 (3+2) points, +5
Traktor’s season has not gone according to plan, but that’s hardly been the fault of its summer imports. The Czech duo of Tomas Hyka and Lukas Sedlak have done all that was asked of them, but it hasn’t been enough to lift the Chelyabinsk team into the playoffs this time.
Sedlak has been prominent all season and this week was one of his best. He started with a goal and a helper in a 2-4 loss against Severstal, then he was part of the team that defeated Admiral 5-0. Surprisingly, the 26-year-old did not get among the points in that one, but he more than made up for it three days later against Sibir. In that game he started with an assist as Nick Bailen’s short-handed goal broke the deadlock, then added two more of his own to set the seal on a 4-0 victory. Moreover, he took his tally to 23 for the campaign and set a new club record for goalscoring in a KHL regular season. Sedlak now has 40 (23+17) points; linemates Hyka and Andrew Calof have 33 and 32 respectively as Traktor’s top line continues to deliver.
F, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, 3 G, 3 (3+0) points, 0
There was stiff competition among the leading Finns this week, with Jokerit’s defenseman Mikko Lehtonen continuing to score heavily as he closes in on a possible record. As such, Enlund might look like an odd choice. After all, he was silent in three of his four games and finished with a 0 on his plus/minus as his team battled its way towards the playoffs.
However, that fourth game was the key one – for player and club alike. Neftekhimik’s trip to Amur promised to be crucial in the battle to secure the final playoff place in the East and, in the big game, Enlund delivered a big performance. He fired home a natural hat-trick in the second period, taking a precarious 1-0 advantage and boosting it to a comfortable 4-0 lead. It was a game-breaker, with Neftekhimik eventually romping to an 8-0 victory. The after-effects for Amur were too great; another defeat 24 hours later ended the Tigers’ playoff push as Neftekhimik secured eighth place.
G, SKA St. Petersburg, 2 G, 2W, 1 SO, 97.67%, GAA 0.50
Magnus Hellberg’s stellar performances need little introduction. The 28-year-old from Uppsala has been a rock between the piping since joining SKA from Kunlun Red Star two years ago and his performances this season have been a big part of the reason Igor Shestyorkin’s departure has not greatly hampered the Army Men.
This week was another strong showing for the 2018 World Champion. He played twice, backstopping a 6-0 home win over Admiral and a 6-1 thrashing of Jokerit in Helsinki. But don’t assume those lopsided scorelines meant Hellberg had an easy time of it; in Finland he made 29 saves after he was beaten by Mikko Lehtonen’s early power play strike. If he gets the nod for SKA’s final game of the regular season against CSKA, he’ll need to be similarly alert to give his team a chance of snatching top spot in the end of season table.
F, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, 3 G, 3 (3+0) points
Jordan Schroeder’s claim to a place on this week’s list is similar to Enlund’s. It’s not just about putting up the numbers, it’s about grabbing the clutch goals. With the season a long way down the home straight, the teams still chasing playoff places have faced some big games this week and Schroeder’s Torpedo is no exception.
When Schroeder and his colleagues arrived at Spartak on Feb. 18, they were on a losing streak that threatened to see them drop outside the playoff places. Moscow was the place to make a stand, and the 29-year-old Minnesotan led the way with two vital goals in a 3-2 victory. Did somebody say ‘clutch’? Well, after opening the scoring in the third minute and giving his team that all-important belief that this could be the night, he came back to cash that check with the gamewinner late in the third, snapping a 2-2 tie and a six-game skid. Schroeder was on the scoresheet again two days later in a 2-3 loss at SKA before helping his team grab another vital point by taking Sochi to overtime in a tight battle beside the Black Sea. That gives Torpedo a three-point lead over the Leopards, who must now defeat Severstal and CSKA while hoping that Schroeder & Co cannot pick up a result against Jokerit.