The defending champion, CSKA, became the first team this season to guarantee itself a place in the 2020 playoff. An emphatic 6-1 victory over HC Sochi opened a 28-point between first and ninth in the Western Conference; Sochi has just 13 games – potentially 26 more points – available before the end of the season. In the East, meanwhile, the race to the top couldn’t be tighter. Ak Bars and Avangard are tied on 68 points after today’s action in the Far East. Avangard won at Admiral before Ak Bars suffered a surprise loss at Kunlun. There were goals aplenty in Nizhny Novgorod, where Torpedo beat Dynamo 6-4, and a big fightback in Nizhnekamsk as Traktor rallied from 0-3 to win a shoot-out. Losses for Metallurg and Salavat Yulaev, meanwhile, mean that two former Gagarin Cup winners are still in danger of missing out in this year’s playoff as the Eastern Conference remains as tight as ever.