5. SKA, 19 matches, 11 victories, 5 regulation defeats, 2 penalty shootout defeats, 1 overtime defeat, goal difference 58-48, 25 points
17. Spartak, 17 matches, 5 regulation victories, 1 penalty shootout victory, 7 regulation defeats, 3 overtime defeats, 1 penalty shootout defeat, goal difference 39-52, 16 points
This will be the second time in the 2020/2021 KHL regular season when SKA and Spartak do battle. On September 17, the two sides engaged in a gritty duel in Moscow, with SKA emerging victorious by a score of 2:0 thanks to two first-period goals from Vladimir Tkachyov and Yaroslav Askarov's maiden shutout of his senior career. It must be noted that both teams were missing a number of key players for that particular game in the Russian capital.
Since that match in September, Spartak have continued to struggle for momentum of a positive nature, only picking up four wins in their subsequent 10 games. As a consequence, the Muscovites currently find themselves sitting in ninth position of the Western Conference, trailing eighth-placed Vityaz Podolsk the single point. Spartak, coached by former SKA boss Oleg Znarok, are still a highly dangerous side, though, with the likes of experienced foreign forwards Jori Lehtera (4+12), Lukas Radil (7+2), Sergei Shirokov (4+6) and Robin Hanzl (2+4) on their books. Swede Emil Djuse is their leading defenseman in terms of points with 12 (2+10) to his name.
In their most recent five games, the Moscow-based organisation have gained two victories, beating Kunlun Red Star Beijing at home (6:4) and Dinamo Minsk away (3:0) while losing to Lokomotiv twice (1:2 OT home, 0:1 SO away) and Barys at the CSKA Arena (2:3 OT).
Furthermore, just to add more spice to today's showdown, Spartak have won their last two successive matches against SKA on the road.
Following their lengthy spell on the sidelines, our senior players have now started to firmly get back on track, displaying promising signs with regard to their improving fitness in triumphs over Sochi away (4:1) and Vityaz at home (5:1). However, those wins were sandwiched by a disappointing loss to CSKA in Moscow (1:3), meaning that our team are five points behind the Army Men who continue to lead the conference. At the moment, SKA are level on points with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in second spot of the conference standings, but the latter do have two games in hand.
POINTS LEADERS IN LAST FIVE MATCHES
Andrei Kuzmenko: 5 (0+5) points
Kirill Marchenko: 4 (3+1) points
Yakov Trenin: 4 (3+1) points
Lukas Radil: 4 (3+1) points
Sergei Shirokov: 4 (1+3) points
Jori Lehtera: 4 (1+3) points
In goal, Julius Hudacek and Nikita Bespalov have regularly taken it in turns to be the starting netminder for Spartak, with the pair having made eight appearances each. Statistically, Hudacek has the advantage, holding a 92.4% save percentage, a goals against average of 2.24, two shutouts and two wins in regulation time. Bespalov has tallied a save percentage of 90.0%, a goals against average of 3.22 and two regulation victories.
As for SKA, Magnus Hellberg has participated in two out of the previous three games, with the Swedish goalkeeper now possessing a save percentage of 92.5%, a 2.53 goals against average and three wins. Mikhail Berdin has a 90.9% save percentage, a goals against average of 2.64 and four victories on the board.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is scheduled for 19:30 local time at the Saint Petersburg Ice Palace. KHL TV and Channel 78 will provide a television broadcast in Russia, whereas you can purchase a live video from the KHL's website worldwide. Text updates can be found on our official Twitter account.