The European regular season will begin tomorrow, 9/1 with matches from the Russian junior league, the MHL, before the big boys start on Tuesday when Dynamo Moscow and Avangard Omsk square off in the KHL. For the Lightning's Russian prospects, their clubs' schedules for the next week are as follows:
9-1-12, Omsk Jr. vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-4-12, Orenburg vs. Ufa Jr. (Vasilevski)
9-5-12, Orenburg vs. Ufa Jr. (Vasilevski)
9-5-12, Chelyabinsk Jr. (Nesterov) vs. Novokuznetsk Jr.
9-5-12, Stupino vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-6-12, Chelyabinsk Jr. (Nesterov) vs. Novokuznetsk Jr.
9-6-12, Stupino vs. CSKA Jr. (Gusev)
9-6-12, Novosibirsk vs. Yaroslavl (Janus?)
9-6-12, Kazan vs. Cherepovets (Koshechkin)
Note that, as of right now, Nikita Gusev (pictured), Andrei Vasilevski, and Nikita Nesterov are currently listed on their respective clubs' MHL rosters, but are subject to potential call-up to the KHL throughout the year. Vasilevski looks to be locked into the MHL though, with Ufa's top club currently boasting veteran goaltender and former Canadiens draft pick Vadim Tarasov and ex-Syracuse Crunch netminder Iiro Tarkki.
Meanwhile, Yaroslavl may be the landing spot for goaltender Jaroslav Janus, according to reports out of Slovakia. Janus has been playing for KHL newcomer Bratislava during the preseason, but it appears he has been compelled to leave the Slovakian club by Yaroslavl, which holds his KHL draft rights, because the team is thin in net between inexperienced Nikita Lozkhin and their struggles to get Curtis Sanford in their lineup. So, Janus may even find himself playing on an emotional opening night for a Yaroslavl club he hasn't even played a preseason game behind. Recall a year ago that Yaroslavl's team perished in a tragic plane crash that led to the team pulling out of participating in the KHL last year.
Canada 1 vs Russia 0 (OT)
After Team Canada won 4-2 in regulation in Halifax on Tuesday night to knot the four-game series at two wins apiece, both teams began a special overtime session in hopes of a series-deciding victory. The Canadians, the distinct aggressors throughout much of the three periods played previously that night, kept pressing their Russian counterparts and were rewarded with the clinching goal just a few minutes into sudden-death. On the play, Canada's Ty Rattie managed to keep the puck in Russia's end, which led to Ryan Strome getting the puck on his stick near the top of the left face-off circle, where he didn't waste any time using some crafty stick-work to make his way to a better angle in the high slot where, with a quick release, he fired a wrist shot that found its mark past Vasilevski.
Canada 4 @ Russia 2
The final game in the exhibition series took place in Halifax last night and ended in a decisive victory for Team Canada. Although Game 4 got off to a similar start to the night before with Russia taking two early leads despite finding themselves mostly hemmed in their own zone or conceding possession for changes and setting up defensively at even-strength. The Canadians finally took the lead (their first since Game 1 of the series), though, nearly midway through the second period and they never relented. Team Russia did manage to generate some quality scoring chances but could not muster a much-needed goal before the game slipped away for good late in the final period. It did help that the Russian coaching staff opted, until just a handful of minutes remained, to keep its team passive and structured in the neutral zone in an apparent attempt to conserve their young squad's energy. For much of the time they trailed, Russia seemed content to try and mount a comeback with selective counterattacks and opportunistic play and, failing that, to try and decide the series in overtime.
Russia 6 @ Canada 5
The third installment in the commemorative exhibition series was played tonight in Halifax, with the Russians, after a convincing victory in Yaroslavl last Friday, just squeaking past Team Canada 6-5. To Russia's credit, they never trailed, but Canada carried the play for most of the game and may have deserved a better fate. Truth be told, Laurent Brossoit's poor showing (6 GA on just 27 SOG) in net for the Canada was probably the difference as the Russians got an alternately superb and suspect effort from Andrey Makarov who stopped 37 of 42 shots in his second straight start.
Russia 6 @ Canada 3
For the second time in as many days, two teams studded with juniors stars battled on ice in Yaroslavl. The Russians avenged their narrow defeat yesterday by thumping the Canadian squad 6-3 in what was the second match of the Canada-Russia Challenge. Canada made the game close twice but the Russia, much more aggressive, able to maintain possession and in control of the pace for much of the game, put the game out of reach in the third. The Russians were good but the Canadians, between lapses in positioning, miscues and too many trips to the penalty box, were equal parts sloppy today.