The Gagarin Cup Playoffs: KHL Postseason Starts Today

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The KHL playoffs start today, as 16 of the league’s 26 clubs compete for the Gagarin Cup. Since the NHL and KHL are huge competitors, it’s interesting to look at the players on the current KHL playoff teams to see just how many are former Philadelphia Flyers or NHLers. On top of that, some clubs’ prospects are in the 16-team field. It’s also worth noting some of the teams that received help from current NHL players who played a good chunk of the season with a certain KHL season before the lockout concluded. With that being said, here are the previews for each series with a listing of noteworthy players on each roster.

Eastern Conference - All series in the Eastern Conference will have home games at the higher seeds’ venues tomorrow and February 22nd before they travel to the lower seeds’ venues on February 25th and 26th. If Games 5, 6, and 7 are necessary, Game 5 will be at the higher seeds’ venues on March 1st, Game 6 will be at the lower seeds’ venues on March 3rd, and Game 7 will be at the higher seeds’ venues on March 5th.

(1) Ak Bars Kazan vs. (8) Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk

Ak Bars Kazan – The only team to win the Gagarin Cup twice in its four-year existence, Ak Bars Kazan finished with 104 points, the most in the East and the second-highest total across the league, with a record of 28-10-6-8 (Wins are worth three points, losses are worth none, overtime wins are worth two, overtime losses are worth one). The team that finished with the least amount of goals against and the second-highest goal differential in the East boasts an interesting former Flyer.

Former Flyers: After spending most of the season with Atlant Moscow Region, Nikolay Zherdev joined the team at the top of the East. He has pitched in two goals and four assists for a team looking for their third title in five years.

Lockout Players: Alexei Emelin of the Montreal Canadiens was a member of Ak Bars Kazan during the lockout. The blue liner racked up two goals and seven helpers in 24 games. He also had 40 PIMs and a plus-1 rating.

Former NHLers: Jarkko Immonen, Niko Kapanen, Aleksey (Alexei) Morozov, and Janne Pesonen

Prospects: On a team that’s average age is 27 years old, the one prospect to watch is Kirill Petrov. Now 22 years old, Petrov was drafted by the New York Islanders in 2008. He had 20 points in 47 games this season.

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk - Although they finished with just 17 wins in 52 games, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk landed in the eighth and final spot in the East, but the fact they led their half the league with 10 overtime wins helped them earn 77 points. With a record of 17-19-10-6, the club finished with the lowest goal differential out of any of the 16 teams to make the postseason. Former Washington Capital Oskar Osala is one of the team’s point leaders with 14 goals and 10 assists in 44 games.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Edmonton Oilers’ rookie Nail Yakupov suited up for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk during the lockout. In 22 games, Yakupov had 10 goals and eight helpers with 33 PIMs and a minus-4 rating.

Former NHLers: Martin Cibak and Oskar Osala.

Prospects: Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk has a few players to watch in the playoffs. One of the players is defenseman Maxim Berezin. At 6’3″ 192 pounds, Berezin is a 22-year-old blue liner who recorded five goals and eight helpers in 51 games. There’s also the Alshevsky twins. At 21 years of age, Stanislav and Yaroslavl had nine and 10 points respectively this season.

(2) Avangard Omsk Region vs. (7) Sibir Novosibirsk

Avangard Omsk Region – Avangard Omsk finished just two points behind Ak Bars Kazan with a record of 26-11-9-6. Karri Ramo, former goaltender of the Tampa Bay Lightning, played in 40 of the team’s games to post a record of 26-9-5 with a 2.00 GAA and .929 save percentage. The tandem of former Los Angeles King Alexander Frolov and current Nashville Predator Sergei Kostitsyn were two of the team’s top four scorers on the season.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: In addition to Kostitsyn, Nikita Nikitin also played for Avangard Omsk during the lockout. The defenseman had two tallies and 12 assists in 33 games for the club.

Former NHLers: Karri Ramo, Sergei Gusev, Anssi Salmela, Alexander Frolov, and Alexander Perezhogin.

Prospects: Although he isn’t a prospect, Calgary Flames’ fans should keep an eye on Ramo, who is rumored to join the team once Avangard Omsk is eliminated from the postseason. His last NHL action was during the 2008-2009 campaign.

Sibir Novosibirsk - With no help from former Flyers or any NHL players during the lockout, Sibir Novosibirsk accrued 84 points with a record of 21-17-7-7. Former Philadelphia Phantom Kristian Kudroc led the team’s blue line in scoring with nine goals and 11 helpers in 49 games. Jeff Glass played in 38 games as the team’s goaltender, as the Ottawa Senators’ third-round draft pick in the 2004 NHL Draft was 16-11-8 with a 2.02 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Former Flyers: None

Lockout Players: None

Former NHLers: Kristian Kudroc, Arturs Kulda, and Alexander Nikulin.

Prospects: Two players at the top of scoring for Sibir Novosibirsk were Jori Lehtera and Jonas Enlund. Lehtera, who was picked by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft, had 17 goals and 31 assists in 52 contests. Enlund, a sixth-round pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006, had 14 goals and 23 helpers in 51 tilts.

(3) Traktor Chelyabinsk vs. (6) Barys Astana

Traktor Chelyabinsk - The team that had its arena damaged due to the recent newsworthy meteor to land in Russia, Traktor Chelyabinsk was tied with Ak Bars Kazan for the most wins in the East with 28. Thanks to three overtime wins and eight overtime losses, the squad finished with 98 points. Former Atlanta Thrasher Michael Garnett had 17 of the team’s wins in net, as he posted a 2.20 GAA and .923 save percentage. The Caps have a huge influence on the team, as Washington’s prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov and former Capital Jan Bulis are the team’s top two leaders in points.

Former Flyers: Although he’s not a former Flyer, Andrei Popov was drafted by Philadelphia 205th overall in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL Draft. The forward has spent his entire career in the Traktor Chelyabinsk system, as he had seven goals and six helpers in 51 games for the team. He had six points in 16 postseason games last season.

Lockout Players: None.

Former NHLers: Michael Garnett, Deron Quint, Jan Bulis, Stanislav Chistov, Petri Kontiola, and Andrei Kostitsyn.

Prospects: The main player to watch on Traktor Chelyabinsk is Kuznetsov. A 6’3″, 187-pound 20-year-old, the Caps’ prospect registered 19 goals and 25 assists in 51 games this year.

Barys Astana - Although they finished sixth in group with a record of 23-18-5-6, Barys Astana had the most goals in the East and second-highest total of goals in the KHL with 175 tallies. With that being said, they also allowed the most goals by any team to make the postseason with 161 goals against. The trio of former NHLers Brandon Bochenski, Nigel Dawes, and Dustin Boyd were the team’s top three point producers, while the pair of Teemu Lassila and former New York Ranger Vitaly Yeremeyev shared time in net.

Former Flyers: Konstantin Rudenko was picked 160th overall by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 1999 NHL Draft, but he never played a game for Philly. After spending several seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Rudenko luckily left for another club the summer before the team’s air disaster. Rudenko had 14 goals and 17 assists in 47 games, as well as 65 PIMs and a plus-2 rating.

Lockout Players: Barys Astana received a lot of help from the lockout as the Winnipeg Jets’ Nik Antropov, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, and New York Ranger Ryan McDonagh all played for the club earlier in the season. Antropov had three goals and 13 helpers in 26 games, Hedman had one goal and 20 assists in 26 contests, and McDonagh produced three assists in 10 games for a team that also boasts several former NHLers.

Former NHLers: Vitaly Yeremeyev, Andrew Hutchinson, Brandon Bochenski, Dustin Boyd, and Nigel Dawes.

Prospects: Another team with an older average age, in this case 28.2 years old, one prospect to keep an eye on is 24-year-old defenseman Roman Savchenko. The defenseman had 10 goals and 10 assists in 50 games for Barys Astana this season and also suited up for two games to represent his native land of Kazakhstan for Olympic qualifying.

(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk vs. (5) Salavat Yulaev Ufa

Metallurg Magnitogorsk - Metallurg Magnitogorsk didn’t land a single win in overtime, but they did exhaust the overtime loss by producing 12 of them with a 27-13-0-12 record this year. With the best goal differential in the East, the club’s point leaders are several players who returned to the NHL after the lockout ended. Ari Ahonen was in net for 40 of the team’s games, as the 27th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft was 20-13-6 with a 2.04 GAA and .924 save percentage.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Metallurg Magnitogorsk is still benefitting from the lockout, as forward Ryan O’Reilly has decided to stay with the club instead of returning to the Colorado Avalanche. O’Reilly, who is currently teammates with his brother Cal, has five goals and five assists in 12 games. As for other lockout helpers, Evgeni Malkin finished second on the team in points for the season with 23 goals and 42 assists in 37 contests. Nikolai Kulemin finished third on the team with 14 goals and 24 helpers in 36 tilts, while defenseman Sergei Gonchar had three tallies and 26 assists in 37 games.

Former NHLers: Oleg Tverdovsky, Alexander Korolyuk, Enver Lisin, Cal O’Reilly, Mikhail Yakubov, and Mats Zuccarello.

Prospects: The prospect to watch on Metallurg Magnitogorsk is Yaroslav Kosov. Picked 124th overall by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, this 6’3″, 220-pound right winger recorded four goals and three helpers in 40 games.

Salavat Yulaev Ufa - Salavat Yulaev Ufa finished five points behind Metallurg Magnitogorsk with a record of 24-17-5-6. The squad may not have received any help from current NHLers during the lockout, but with players who have a lot of experience in the NHL playoffs, like Brent Sopel and Oleg Saprykin, Salavat Yulaev Ufa could make a run. Iiro Tarkki, who played in a game last year for the Anaheim Ducks, was the club’s starting goalie with a record of 20-11-6, as well as a 2.37 GAA and .913 save percentage.

Former Flyers: Former Flyer Stefan Ruzicka suited up for only seven games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa this season. He potted two goals and recorded four assists, as well as two PIMs. Ruzicka last played for the Orange and Black in 2007-2008 and has played for Spartak Moscow for the last five seasons before becoming a member of this team.

Lockout Players: None.

Former NHLers: Iiro Tarkki, Ivan Baranka, Brent Sopel, Andrei Zubarev, Nikita Filatov, Antti Pihlstrom, Oleg Saprykin, Alexander Svitov, and Sergei Zinovjev.

Prospects: He may not play in the playoffs, but a noteworthy prospect on Salavat Yulaev Ufa is Andrei Vasilevski. An 18-year-old goaltender picked 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year’s draft, Vasilevski had a 2.22 GAA and .924 save percentage in eight games this season.

Western Conference - All teams in the Western Conference will play the first two games at the higher seeds’ venues today and tomorrow before they travel to the lower seeds’ venues on February 24th and 25th. If Games 5, 6, and 7 are necessary, Game 5 will be played at the higher seeds’ venues on February 28th, Game 6 will be played at the lower seeds’ venues on March 2nd, and Game 7 will be played at the higher seeds’ venues on March 4th.

(1) SKA Saint Petersburg vs. (8) Atlant Moscow Region

SKA Saint Petersburg - It’s hard to pick against SKA Saint Petersburg this postseason, as the club enters the playoffs with the best record, most goals, best goal differential, and the most points. The record of 36-11-2-3 is scary to think about, as SKA Saint Petersburg received a lot of help from current NHLers during the lockout, former NHLers, and a few former Flyers.

Former Flyers: Patrick Thoresen may have not scored a single goal in his tenure with Philly, but the former Flyer had 21 goals and 30 assists in 52 games this year with SKA. He had 41 points in 45 games last season and 66 points in 54 games during the 2010-2011 KHL campaign. In addition to Thoresen, Andrei Sigarev, who played with the Philadelphia Revolution during the 2010-2011 season, failed to record a point in four games with SKA this year.

Lockout Players: Along with the lengthy crew of former NHLers that played with the team all year long, SKA Saint Petersburg also received help from Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Vladimir Tarasenko during the lockout. Kovalchuk had 18 goals and 24 assists in 36 games, while Tarasenko produced 14 goals and 18 assists in 31 games. Bob was the team’s starting goalie throughout the season and provided an 18-3-2 record with a 1.94 GAA and .932 save percentage.

Former NHLers: Kevin Dallman, Dmitri Kalinin, Alexei Semenov, Maxim Afinogenov, Evgeny Artyukhin, Fedor Fedorov, Tony Martensson, Petr Prucha, and Viktor Tikhonov.

Prospects: A second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2006 NHL Draft, Igor Makarov is a player that is doing well for a younger player on the team. Two years after he played in 68 games for the Rockford IceHogs, Makarov had 10 goals and 18 helpers in 49 games with SKA.

Atlant Moscow Region - It doesn’t look good for Atlant Moscow Region, as the club will have to produce a major upset if they want to overcome SKA Saint Petersburg in a series where the clubs are separated by 42 points. It also doesn’t help that they are the team that has allowed the most goals in the West and they play the team who registered the most goals in the KHL this year. However, there is a reason why you play the games.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Atlant Moscow Region received help from forward Viktor Stalberg, defenseman Fedor Tyutin, and goaltender Anton Khudobin during the lockout. Stalberg had three goals and seven assists in 14 games, while Tyutin recorded a goal and two helpers in 17 contests. Khudobin, who is 2-1-0 with a 2.70 GAA and .905 save percentage with the Boston Bruins, was 6-14-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Former NHLers: Jonas Frogren, Sandis Ozolins (Ozolinsh), Ivan Vishnevskiy, Andreas Engqvist, Konstantin Koltsov, Maxim Mayorov, and Alexei Mikhnov.

Prospects: Two players worth mentioning are the former NHLers Engqvist and Mayorov. Former Montreal Canadien Engqvist had 12 goals and 24 assists in 48 games, while former Columbus Blue Jacket Mayorov had 16 goals and six assists in 40 games. Another player to stay updated on is 20-year-old Roman Rukavishnikov. The defenseman played in 49 games this season and produced two goals along with nine assists and a plus-7 rating.

(2) CSKA Moscow vs. (7) Lev Praha

CSKA Moscow - Although they had the third-highest point total in the West with 96 points over a 23-15-13-1 record, CSKA Moscow finished second due to the fact they had the best record in the Tarasov Division. Thanks to the goaltending of former Washington Capital Rastislav Stana, CSKA finished with the lowest total for goals against with 109. Alexander Radulov led the way for CSKA Moscow, as he was both the team’s captain and the team’s points’ leader for the regular season.

Former Flyers: Danny Markov, who was a member of Vityaz Chekhov earlier in the season, was minus-3 with zero points in four games for CSKA this year.

Lockout Players: The team received help from Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, as well as Pavel Datsyuk and Mikhail Grabovski during the work stoppage. Bryz was 6-5-0 with a 2.13 GAA and .913 save percentage, while Datsyuk finished second on the team with 36 points in 31 games and Grabovski finished fifth on the club with 24 points in 29 games.

Former NHLers: Rastislav Stana, Maxim Kondratiev, Shaone Morrisonn, Patrick Davis, Viktor Kozlov, Oleg Kvasha, Igor Radulov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Shirokov, Janis Sprukts, Vladimir Zharkov, and Ilya Zubov.

Prospects: Along with the Radulovs and young former Devils, defenseman Alexei Marchenko put together a nice season as a 20-year-old. A seventh-round pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Marchenko had four goals and five helpers in 44 contests this season with a minus-2 rating.

Lev Praha - Lev Praha had the same number of wins as CSKA Moscow, but thanks to eight more losses in regulation and eight less overtime decisions Lev Praha finished 20 points behind their first-round opponent. The club also had the help of one of the best shutdown defenders in the NHL for 25 games.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Jakub Voracek helped Lev Praha during the lockout with seven goals and 13 assists in 20 games to finish fifth on the team in points. Zdeno Chara had four goals and six assists to add on to his defensive abilities. A pair of Calgary Flames, Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka, played for Lev Praha before the NHL returned to action. Hudler had an assist in four games, while Cervenka had a goal and two assists in five games.

Former NHLers: Tomas Popperle, Sami Lepisto, Nathan Oystrick, Lubos Bartecko, Erik Christensen, Marcel Hossa, Jakub Klepis, Jiri Novotny, Michal Repik, Tomas Surovy, and Petr Vrana.

Prospects: One of the younger players on Lev Praha who has excelled this season is Tomas Rachunek. The 21-year-old left winger had six goals and nine assists in 36 games this year.

(3) Dynamo Moscow  vs. (6) Slovan Bratislava

Dynamo Moscow - Dynamo Moscow actually finished with the second-most points in the West, but since they play in the same division as SKA Saint Petersburg they had to settle for the third seed. It will be interesting to see how the team will do in the playoffs, as their top two point producers in the regular season are now with the Washington Capitals.

Former Flyers: Denis Tolpeko has only played for Dynamo Moscow after he left the Flyers after the 2007-2008 campaign, as the forward has five goals and five helpers with a minus-6 rating in 27 tilts.

Lockout Players: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were the team’s top two scorers during the regular season despite the fact neither played nowhere near a full season. Ovechkin produced 19 goals and 21 assists in 31 games to lead the team in points, while Backstrom had 10 goals and 15 assists in 19 games to finish second. Toronto Maple Leaf Leo Komarov also suited up for Dynamo Moscow during the lockout to provide 10 points in 13 contests.

Former NHLers: Alexandre Boikov, Filip Novak, Yuri Babenko, and Jakub Petruzalek,

Prospects: Andrei Mironov is a defenseman that had five assists and a plus-3 rating in 40 games at the age of 18 years old.

Slovan Bratislava - A team filled with former Flyers and NHLers, Slovan Bratislava managed to grab the sixth seed with a record of 17-19-11-5. Jaroslav Janus, who helped the Norfolk Admirals win the Calder Cup last season, was 18-16-13 with a 2.17 GAA and .928 save percentage.

Former Flyers: Former Flyer David Printz played in one game for Slovan Bratislava, while Flyers’ draft picks Ville Hostikka and Jan Lipiansky are currently with the team. Printz was minus-1 with two PIMs in his lone game with the club, while Lipiansky had five goals and 10 helpers in 41 games. Hostikka played in one game for Slovan Bratislava, which was a loss where he allowed four goals on 24 shots.

Lockout Players: Janus probably wasn’t happy about the NHL returning to action, as both Andrej Sekera and Lubomir Visnovsky left the club. Sekera had three goals and nine helpers in 25 contests, while Visnovsky provided six goals and 10 assists in 32 games.

Former NHLers: Vladimir Mihalik, Tomas Mojzis, Jonathan Sigalet, Milan Bartovic, Mario Bliznak, Milan Kytnar, Miroslav Satan, Marek Svatos, Michal Vondrka, and Peter Olvecky.

Prospects: Slovan Bratislava has a pair of young forwards who posted impressive numbers this year. One of them was 21-year-old Libor Hudacek, a center who had 11 goals and nine helpers in 48 games. The other forward was 18-year-old Marko Danio, who had seven points in 37 games with a plus-4 rating.

(4) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl vs. (5) Severstal Cherepovets

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl - Just one season after their air disaster, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is back in the KHL postseason. With the lowest point total for any team with home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl finished the season with a record of 24-18-10-0.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Blue Jackets’ forward Artem Anisimov and Colorado’s goaltender Semyon Varlamov played for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl during the lockout. Anisimov finished second on the team with 29 points in 36 contests, while Varlamov posted an 8-4-3 record with a 1.74 GAA and .946 save percentage.

Former NHLers: Vitaly Kolesnik, Curtis Sanford, Mark Flood, Staffan Kronwall, Vitaly Vishnevski, Niklas Hagman, and Oleg Petrov.

Prospects: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has a pair of young forwards who both had 20 points or more this season. Emil Galimov, a 20-year-old forward, had seven goals and 13 assists in 33 contests, while 22-year-old Sergei Plotnikov had 14 tallies and 16 helpers in 50 tilts this year.

Severstal Cherepovets - With the highest goal total for any team without home-ice advantage in the West and the best goal differential for any team playing the first two games on the road, Severstal Cherepovets has a good chance to upset Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. It’s also a positive sign for the club that they didn’t rely on the lockout too heavily, as Tom Wandell was the only NHL player to join the squad.

Former Flyers: None.

Lockout Players: Wandell, who is minus-2 with four PIMs in seven games this season with the Dallas Stars, had two goals and seven helpers in 26 contests for Severstal Cherepovets.

Former NHLers: Teemu Laakso, Nikita Alexeev, and Niclas Bergfors.

Prospects: One standout forward on Severstal Cherepovets is Vadim Shipachev, a 25-year-old. He had 17 tallies and 23 assists in 51 contests this year.