KHL Teams Clean Up On Lockout
Published: September 26, 2012 (Issue # 1728)
Kontinental Hockey League teams started bolstering their rosters with locked-out players from the U.S. National Hockey League last week.
Local team SKA St. Petersburg signed New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk and Columbus Blues goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin signed with his former team Dinamo Moscow and Pittsburg Penguins star Yevgeny Malkin signed with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, along with Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs. CSKA Moscow picked up Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk and Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
KHL President Alexander Medvedev said in a statement that as the NHL and the NHL Players Association had failed to reach a new agreement, the NHL officially implemented a lockout on Sept. 15, meaning the association’s players currently have no legal obligations to their employers. In accordance with International Ice Hockey Federation rules, the KHL completed the relevant transfer cards and decided to allow the NHL players to participate in the KHL from Sept. 20.
The lockout signings generated a lot of buzz for SKA’s much needed 3-1 win against Dinamo Moscow last Sunday night in Moscow in a game that was billed as a showdown between Kovalchuk and Ovechkin.
The win in Moscow ends SKA’s four-game road trip, which they split with two tough losses to Metallurg Magnitogorsk (4-3) and league newcomer Slovan Bratislava (4-2) and a 3-2 win against Traktor Chelyabinsk.
SKA has had an inconsistent start to the season with a 2-1 loss to Avangard Omsk, a 7-3 win over Barys Astana and a 7-5 victory against Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk.
SKA has retained the explosive and high-scoring offense that has thrilled fans for the past few seasons. Fan favorite Patrick Thoresen leads the league with 10 points and Gleb Klimenko is the scoring leader with six goals. However, they have also conceded the most goals.
SKA head coach Milos Riha made it clear the team has a number of things to work on.
“I think the biggest problem is the lack of a natural center,” he said following the home match against Yugra.
“We’ve tried a number of things and this is something that we’ll work on going forward. The season is still young and we’re still in the process of completing our roster.
“Some have argued that we’re one of the strongest teams in the league, but I don’t see it that way. A number of teams have loaded up with good players and we really need to come together as team if we’re going to win,” he added.
The KHL has expanded to 26 teams for the 2012-2013 season. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl returned after missing last season due to the tragic plane crash that killed most of the team in September 2011, and the league’s expansion was completed with the addition of Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia and HC Donbass from Donetsk, Ukraine. Meanwhile Slovakia’s Lev Poprad was disbanded and replaced by Lev Praha, a team based in Prague, Czech Republic.
Twenty of the teams are based in Russia and six more are located in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia and Ukraine.