7. SKA, 25 matches, 15 regulation victories, 7 regulation defeats, 2 penalty shootout defeats, 1 overtime defeat, goal difference 79-58, 33 points
8. Salavat Yulaev, 27 matches, 11 regulation victories, 2 overtime victories, 2 penalty shootout victories, 10 regulation defeats, 1 overtime defeat, goal difference 82-78, 33 points
One glance at the 2020/2021 KHL regular season standings gives an indication of how closely matched these two teams are. Deadlocked at 33 points apiece, SKA and Salavat Yulaev are experiencing similar campaigns so far, earning plenty of impressive victories while struggling for consistency at the same time. It must be noted, however, that SKA do have two games in hand.
Salavat have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the league. Coached by Finnish manager Tomi Lamsa, the Ufa-based organisation have already scored 82 goals this season with the likes of forwards Teemu Hartikainen (14+13), Markus Granlund (10+12), Sakari Manninen (6+12) and Dmitry Kugryshev (6+12) firing on all cylinders, however they have been leaky in defence having conceded 78 goals in just 27 matches - the worst record among the leading 18 clubs in the table. Only Amur Khabarovsk (82), HC Sochi (82), Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (83), Kunlun Red Star Beijing (83) and Sibir Novosibirsk (84) have let in more goals. SKA, in comparison, have conceded 58 markers.
The Bashkir club are coming off the back of a dramatic 4:3 overtime triumph over Dynamo in Moscow. Overall, Salavat have won four of their past five games in the league, defeating Amur (4:1), Metallurg in Magnitogorsk (4:1), Kunlun in Ufa (3:2 OT) and Dynamo on the road (4:3 OT) while losing to CSKA in the Russian capital (3:5). Salavat are ranked fifth in the Eastern Conference.
18-year-old defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin (2+5) and 19-year-old forward Rodion Amirov (3+3) are regarded as two of the brightest young Russian talents.
Following the international break, SKA have finally clicked into gear on a consistent basis, beating Jokerit in Helsinki (4:1), Vityaz in Podolsk (8:1) and Severstal in Cherepovets (2:0) with effective performances to tally three successive wins and increase their grip on second spot of the Western Conference. Miro Aaltonen caught the eye in that road trip as the Finnish forward hit the target in all three matches.
POINTS LEADERS IN LAST FIVE MATCHES
Linden Vey: 7 (0+7) points
Kirill Marchenko: 5 (2+3) points
Viktor Antipin: 5 (0+5)
Teemu Hartikainen: 9 (4+5) points
Philip Larsen: 6 (2+4) points
Sakari Manninen: 5 (3+2) points
In goal, Juha Metsola is generally the starter for Salavat, with the 31-year-old Finn having tallied a 90.5% save percentage and a goals against average of 2.53 in 19 appearances. Daniil Tarasov (90.2%, 2.69, 1 shutout) and former SKA goalkeeper Alexander Skrynnik (90.1%, 2.99) are the back-up options for Metsola.
On Saturday, Magnus Hellberg was on top form for SKA in Cherepovets, stopping all 39 shots he faced against Severstal to gain his maiden shutout of the campaign. Yaroslav Askarov (96.0%, 1.08, 1 shutout) and Mikhail Berdin (91.9%, 2.39) have been crucial for SKA as well when they’ve been given opportunities on the ice.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is scheduled for 19:30 local time at the Saint Petersburg Ice Palace. Match TV and Channel 78 will show the match on television in Russia, whereas you can purchase a live video from the KHL’s official website worldwide. Text updates can be found on our Twitter account.