5. Ak Bars, 32 matches, 14 regulation victories, 3 overtime victories, 3 penalty shootout victories, 8 regulation defeats, 4 overtime defeats, goal difference 76-70, 44 points
9. SKA, 31 matches, 14 regulation wins, 1 overtime victory, 3 penalty shootout victories, 8 regulation defeats, 2 overtime defeats, 3 penalty shootout defeats, goal difference 98-70, 41 points
Ak Bars Kazan are rightly regarded as one of the KHL’s heavyweights. Three-time Gagarin Cup champions, the Tatarstan-based organisation are always one of the main contenders for the championship, possessing deep resources and a strong squad.
The Tatar giants currently occupy third spot of the Eastern Conference with 44 points on the board. Coached by the charismatic Dmitry Kvartalnov, Ak Bars have admittedly struggled for consistency so far this season, notably conceding surprise home defeats to the likes of Kunlun Red Star Beijing (3:4), Dinamo Minsk (3:4 OT) and Sibir Novosibirsk (0:2). Nevertheless, Ak Bars have made an improvement in recent games, winning their last five in a row against Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (home, 5:4), Spartak Moscow (away, 1:0), Dinamo Riga (away, 3:1; home, 4:2) and Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (away, 3:2 OT).
Ak Bars have been lacking goals, scoring a mere 76 in 32 matches in comparison to SKA’s 98 markers. Interestingly, the Kazan outfit have been surprisingly poor on the powerplay too, only converting 11.7% of their opportunities. Only Admiral Vladivostok (11.4%) and Sibir (10.8%) have been less productive on the powerplay.
SKA’s powerplay conversion rate is seventh in the league at 22.4%.
The Tatars have been solid on the penalty kill, though, successfully neutralizing 86.0% of the opponents’ powerplays to put them fourth in the ranking. SKA are down in 10th with a success rate of 80.7%.
In-form forwards Jordan Weal (8+11) and Dmitry Kagarlitsky (9+9) are Ak Bars’ leading scorers, while defenseman Steven Kampfer (5+9) is their main threat at the blue line. Forwards Alexander Burmistrov (3+7), Nikolai Kovalenko (5+7), Per Lindholm (3+2) and Ilya Safonov (3+3) are present on Ak Bars’ injury list.
SKA finally snapped the six-game losing streak on Tuesday, thrashing Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk by a thumping score of 8:2 on the road. Young forwards Ivan Morozov (4+3), Kirill Marchenko (11+6), Zakhar Bardakov (1+2) and 16-year-old Matvei Michkov (2+3) caught the eye, producing a scintillating performance to get our team back on track. SKA will move above Severstal Cherepovets and CSKA Moscow with a victory today.
Forward Andrei Kuzmenko continues to be our top scorer with a huge 33 (13+20) points on the board.
Last season, Ak Bars managed to beat SKA twice in the regular season, emerging victorious 3:2 in overtime in Tatarstan and by the same score after a penalty shootout in Saint Petersburg.
Timur Bilyalov: 20 matches, 15 wins, 5 defeats, 432 saves made, 35 goals conceded, save percentage 92.5%, goals against average 1.82, 2 shutouts
Igor Bobkov: 13 matches, 5 wins, 6 defeats, 234 saves made, 28 goals conceded, save percentage 89.3%, goals against average 2.29, 2 shutouts
Artur Akhtyamov: 1 match, 1 defeat, 17 saves made, 4 goals conceded, save percentage 81.0%, goals against average 4.14
Lars Johansson: 23 matches, 12 wins, 8 defeats, 465 saves made, 37 goals conceded, save percentage 92.6%, goals against average 1.77, 7 shutouts
Alexander Samonov: 7 matches, 3 wins, 3 defeats, 105 saves made, 18 goals conceded, save percentage 85.4%, goals against average 3.87
Yaroslav Askarov: 5 matches, 2 wins, 2 defeats, 75 saves made, 8 goals conceded, save percentage 90.4%, goals against average 2.01
Dmitry Nikolaev: 2 matches, 1 win, 32 saves made, 2 goals conceded, save percentage 94.1%, goals against average 1.08
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck-drop is scheduled for 19:30 local time at the Tatneft Arena in Kazan, Tatarstan. KHL PRIME and Channel 78 (Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region) will provide a television broadcast in Russia, whereas you can watch a live video worldwide on the KHL’s official website. Text updates will be available on our Twitter account.