9. Avtomobilist, 47 matches, 21 regulation victories, 3 overtime victories, 2 penalty shootout victories, 14 regulation defeats, 2 overtime defeats, 3 penalty shootout defeats, goal difference 126-112, 59 points
5. SKA, 47 matches, 24 regulation victories, 1 overtime victory, 2 penalty shootout victories, 12 regulation defeats, 4 overtime defeats, 4 penalty shootout defeats, goal difference 140-106, 62 points
This will be the second battle between the two sides in the 2020/2021 KHL regular season. On December 12, SKA breezed past Avtomobilist in Saint Petersburg, claiming a confident 7:2 triumph with Stepan Starkov, Kirill Marchenko, Joonas Kemppainen, Linden Vey, Anton Burdasov, Andrei Kuzmenko and Vladimir Tkachyov all hitting the target for our team. Pavel Datsyuk and Geoff Platt grabbed Avtomobilist’s two markers.
Nevertheless, since that particular match, Bill Peters’ Avtomobilist have made a big improvement. Playing with confidence, the Yekaterinburg-based outfit are currently on a four-game winning streak, having defeated Jokerit Helsinki (home, 2:0), Spartak Moscow (away, 1:0), Dinamo Minsk (away, 2:1) and Avangard Omsk (home, 4:1) while only conceding a mere two goals along the way. As a result of their promising form, Avtomobilist are occupying fifth position of the Eastern Conference with 59 points on the board, four more than sixth-placed Traktor Chelyabinsk. Legendary 42-year-old forward Datsyuk, a 2016/2017 Gagarin Cup champion with SKA, has tallied an impressive 31 (10+21) points in 42 games to date. Alexei Makeev (21+18) is Avtomobilist’s top scorer, while defensemen Charles Genoway (3+12), Alexei Vasilevskiy (5+9) and ex-Vancouver Canucks player Nikita Tryamkin (2+10) have all been productive from the blue line.
Forwards Georgy Belousov (7+13), Pavel Kulikov (2+7) and Sergei Shumakov (0 points) are ruled out for Avtomobilist through injury.
SKA have made a somewhat underwhelming start to 2021, conceding setbacks to Dinamo Minsk (away, 3:4 OT), Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (away, 1:4) and CSKA Moscow (home, 2:3 OT; away, 1:3) while beating HC Sochi 3:1 at the Ice Palace. However, despite those disappointing results, our players are still in second of the Western Conference with 62 points.
POINTS LEADERS IN LAST FIVE MATCHES
Peter Holland: 7 (4+3) points
Zakhar Arzamastsev: 4 (0+4) points
Georgy Belousov: 2 (1+1) points
Andrei Kuzmenko: 4 (3+1) points
Anton Burdasov: 4 (2+2) points
Joonas Kemppainen: 3 (0+3) points
In net, veteran Czech goalkeeper Jakub Kovar has been a solid figure for the Ural organisation, registering a 92.5% save percentage, a goals against average of 2.17, seven shutouts and even four assists in 42 games. Young goaltenders Vladislav Gross (4 matches, 95.7%, 1.22, 1 shutout) and Vladimir Galkin (5 matches, 84.5%, 4.13) have also featured this season.
When playing against CSKA on Sunday, Yaroslav Askarov stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced, with the 18-year-old now holding a save percentage of 95.1%, a 1.12 goals against average and one shutout. Magnus Hellberg (15 matches, 92.7%, 2.07, 2 shutouts), Alexander Samonov (15 matches, 91.3%, 2.42) and Dmitry Nikolaev (0 matches) are the other goalkeeping options.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck-drop is scheduled for 17:00 Moscow time at the Uralets Arena in Yekaterinburg. KHL TV HD and Channel 78 (Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region only) will provide a television broadcast in Russia, whereas you can purchase a live video on the KHL’s official website worldwide. Text updates can be found on our Twitter account.