The KHL completed its sophomore season on Sunday and kicks off its sixteen team competition for the Gagarin Cup today. The first round will be a best of five series, with the following match-ups.
SKA St. Petersburg (2) vs. Dinamo Riga (13)
Head coach Barry Smith leads a group of former NHLers that includes Robert Esche, Sergei Zubov, and Alexei Yashin against Dinamo Riga, which is led by former New York Ranger Marcel Hossa, who finished the regular season leading the league with 35 goals and added 19 assists for 54 points in 56 games. Games 3/10, 3/11, 3/13, if necessary 3/14 & 3/16.
HK MVD (4) vs. CSKA Moscow (12)
Rangers 2009 seventh round draft pick defenseman Mikhail Pashnin will get his first taste of playoff action after finishing his rookie season with a goal and four assists in 44 games. Columbus prospect Nikita Filatov will look to make an impression up front after picking up 22 points in in 26 games after leaving the NHL. Games 3/10, 3/11, 3/13, if necessary 3/14 & 3/16. Games 3/10, 3/11, 3/13, if necessary 3/14 & 3/16.
Dynamo Moscow (5) vs. Spartak Moscow (10)
Expect a spirited grudge match between to clubs with a history of not liking each other. Rangers property Ivan Baranka led the Spartak defense corps in points with 32 in 55 games, a mark good for fifth among defenseman in the entire league. On the other side, fellow Ranger prospect Pavel Valentenko managed to get into only seven matches this season due to injury. Now apparently healthy, it’s not clear if the defenseman will be able to push his way back into the line-up unless Dynamo suffers an injury. Games 3/10, 3/11, 3/13, if necessary 3/14 & 3/16.
Atlant Mystishchi (6) vs. Lokomotiv Yarolslavl (7)
Nikolai Zherdev, who finished third on Atlant in scoring with 39 points in 52 games, behind league scoring leader Sergei Mozyakin and former Montreal Canadien Jan Bulis, will look to improve his chances of an NHL return with a strong playoff run. Games 3/10, 3/11, 3/13, if necessary 3/14 & 3/16.
Salavat Yulaev (1) vs. Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (19)
Head coach Vyacheslav Bykov and assistant Igor Zakharkin hope to prove Russia’s Olymic disaster was a fluke by getting past the first round this season. Last year, their top-ranked club was knocked out early by Jaromir Jagr and 16th seed Avangard Omsk. Games 3/11, 3/12, 3/14, if necessary, 3/15 & 3/17.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk (3) vs. Traktor Chelyabinsk (18)
Sergei Fedorov and little brother FedFed look to lead Metallurg over Traktor, a team I admittedly know absolutely nothing about. Games 3/11, 3/12, 3/14, if necessary, 3/15 & 3/17.
AK Bars Kazan (8) vs. Barys Astana (14)
Last year’s champs, now featuring former Rangers prospect Jarkko Immonen, who finished his first KHL campaign with 38 points in 56 games, take on a team led by former NHLer Jozef Stumpel. Games 3/11, 3/12, 3/14, if necessary, 3/15 & 3/17.
Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (9) vs. Avangard Omsk (11)
Jagr begins his drive for the Gagarin Cup with Tampa Bay’s Karri Ramo backing him up in net. Sergei Demagin, who spent training camp with the Rangers two seasons ago, suits up for Neftekhimik. Games 3/11, 3/12, 3/14, if necessary, 3/15 & 3/17.
This was written in about a half an hour, so I’m sure there are far more interesting storylines I’m overlooking. But I wanted to get the links to the live video broadcasts up for folks who want to watch. I’ll do my best to update this post with links for future games as they become available each night.
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