When Ak Bars hosted SKA on Thursday, there was a personal battle running parallel to the heavyweight clash between two top teams. Nikita Gusev and Dmitry Kagarlitsky went into the game on 149 goals and their race to reach 150 turned into a head-to-head confrontation. Gusev came out on top, potting the OT winner in Kazan while Kagarlitsky’s goalless streak continued for the home team.
Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamaki recorded his 127th victory behind the bench for the Helsinki club last week. That puts him level with Kari Heikkala, who has worked with five KHL clubs in his career. Marjamaki can set an absolute record for Finnish coaches this week if he can mastermind a win over Vityaz (Dec. 1) or SKA (Dec. 3).
More selections for the 2022 Fonbet KHL All-Star Game have been announced. Last week, the journalists made their choice and added another 12 names to the list. This include two KHL rookies on team North America, with Kenny Agostino (Torpedo) and Steven Kampfer (Ak Bars) selected alongside Jokerit’s Brian O’Neill. Host club Traktor Chelyabinsk is well represented with four players on the list — Nick Bailen and Lukas Sedlak will represent Eurasia, Nikita Tertyshny’s breakout season sees him called up for Russia and Teemu Pulkkinen will play for Scandinavia. The other media choices were Darren Dietz (Barys, Eurasia), Russians Dmitry Rashevsky (Dynamo Moscow) and Andrei Kuzmenko (SKA), and Scandinavians Jori Lehtera (Spartak) and Marko Anttila (Jokerit). Eight of the 12 will make their All-Star debuts.
Kunlun Red Star’s goalies are perhaps the hardest working men in the KHL. And while the Chinese franchise is allowing a lot of goals, we are also seeing some fantastic saves from Jeremy Smith and Alexander Lazushin in the Dragons’ colors. Sunday brought another spectacular stop from Smith, early in the second period against Metallurg. Facing down an odd-man rush, he moved to close his near post against Brendan Leipsic’s advance, only to hurl himself across the net to recover in time to steal a virtual empty net goal from Anatoly Nikontsev.
Metallurg went on to win that game against Red Star, which pitted two teams that have recovered four-goal deficits this season. Kunlun trailed 0-4 before forcing overtime against Amur but this week Metallurg went one better when it clawed back a 0-4 scoreline to defeat Dinamo Minsk in the extras. That’s the biggest successful fightback of the season to date.
The Leopard’s improvement under Andrei Nazarov continues, and this week the team wrote a new chapter in its short history with an 8-2 victory at Admiral. It’s the club’s biggest win since Sochi started in the KHL in 2014-2015. The previously best was a 7-2 success in Sep. 2016. Martin Bakos (2+1) and JC Lipon (0+3) led the scoring, with a burst of four goals in four second-period minutes setting the tone for the Black Sea boys.
This week’s big game takes us far from the Russian winter as Avangard and Ak Bars travel to Dubai for the latest instalment of the KHL World Games. When the Eastern Conference giants face-off in the Coca-Cola Arena on Dec. 15, the UAE will become the 15th country to stage a KHL game. In the league’s history, teams representing 10 countries have competed — Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland and China at present, plus Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Croatia in the past. In addition, regular season games have gone ‘on tour’ throughout the KHL’s history, with Estonia, Lithuania, Austria and Switzerland all hosting these special events.
Friday’s game is also set to be a landmark occasion for Danis Zaripov. The 40-year-old is poised to make his 1,300th appearance in the top level of Russian hockey, becoming the first man to do so.