Mukhamadullin Joins Comets as Utica Prepares for AHL Playoff Run

Amanda Stein reported yesterday that the Utica Comets will have an addition to their roster when they kick off their quest for the Calder Cup tonight against the Rochester Americans.

Twenty-year-old defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin was assigned to the Comets from Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League and is expected to make his North American debut with Utica in their North Division Semifinal Calder Cup Playoff series.

Stein did say that he will practice with the Comets in the meantime, but at the moment, “game play is yet to be determined.”

Stein referenced Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald saying in his end-of-season press conference “that Mukhamadullin had [received] his visa, and would join the Comets as they prepare for their Calder Cup run.”

Fitzgerald wants the 6-foot, 4-inch blue liner to get familiar with the North American-style of hockey before fully throwing him into a game situation.

The Devils GM was quoted by Stein as saying: “He’ll go down to Utica, he’ll watch. Will he get in some games, depending on the series. We just want to make sure that we put him in a situation that he’s comfortable with, that he’s comfortable with that he’s growing, but with language barrier, North American type of hockey, it should be a [sic] great seeing him on the ice with our prospects.”

Mukhamadullin signed his three-year Entry Level Contract back on December 21, 2021 as Stein mentioned in her article.

The Comets get things started in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs in the North Division Semifinals against the Amerks as they play game one in Utica tonight. I will have some coverage of that here on the blog along with the NHL Draft Lottery, which is being shown on ESPN and ESPN+ tonight.

In other news reported yesterday regarding a springtime tournament, Catherine Bogart is reporting that Devils defenseman Ryan Graves has been added to Canada’s roster for the 2022 World Hockey Championship.

He will join fellow Devils d-man Damon Severson as well as Devils forward Dawson Mercer on the Canada roster for the tournament.

Bogart mentioned that this will be Graves’ first time representing Canada at the World Championship.

Overall, Graves will be the eighth Devil to participate in this year’s Worlds, as in addition to the three on Canada’s roster, Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler will also play for Switzerland while goaltender Jon Gillies will suit up for the United States and Tomas Tatar will appear for Slovakia.

In addition, Devils defensive prospect Luke Hughes will also play for Team USA.

The 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship will begin on Friday, May 13 in Finland. Again, I will attempt to keep up with results here as best as I can.

Also, speaking of Devils defensemen, PK Subban has been working as a studio analyst for ESPN’s Stanley Cup Playoff coverage. He appeared on the intermission reports of the Rangers loss to the Penguins last night along with anchor John Buccigross and fellow analyst/former NHL defeneman Chris Chelios. He joins Bryce Salvador, who has been an ice-level reporter and analyst for TNT and TBS – working the Panthers overtime win over the Capitals yesterday and Erika Wachter, who has been reporting for the Flames-Stars series for Turner as well.

And finally, as we round out the news being reported on the Devils app, Sam Kasan recently talked about the newest addition of the “Speak of the Devils” podcast – the team’s in-house produced podcast.

This week’s guest is Greg Wyshynski, the hockey analyst and reporter for ESPN. Wyshynski grew up in Matawan, New Jersey and as a Devils fan.

He spoke on the podcast about how he became a fan of the Devils – his father was an Islanders fan when young Greg was just starting his hockey fandom – which coincided with the Devils’ unlikely playoff run in 1988 that concluded only with a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Wales Conference Finals.

He also related the story about how he and his father ended up at the Meadowlands Arena for game four of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings and got to witness the Devils complete the sweep of the powerhouse Wings and hoist the Cup for the first time.

In addition to all of that, he goes over how he brought his fandom to his journalism once he broke into the sports writing business, something that was simply not done at the time.

Kasan listed some other topics that came up on the podcast episode including, looking at the 2021-22 Devils season, why Wyshynski feels optimistic for the Devils’ future, how he feels Hischier is underrated, Dougie Hamilton’s first season with the Devils, what the Devils will need for 2022-23, his overall Devils fandom and his favorite players over the years, how he became a journalist, the “emergence of blogging” and his current career at ESPN.

I would certainly recommend giving it a listen as Wyshynski is always entertaining and is someone does tend to wear his fandom (both of the Devils and of hockey in general) on his sleeve.

Day Two of 2022 WJC Action

The second day of action at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship was played today in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta featuring another four matchups.

The first game scheduled gave us a Group A contest between Austria and Finland at Rogers Place.

This one was all Finland as they took the victory 7-1.

Finland jumped out to the early 1-0 lead when Ville Koivunen scored 3:29 into the game from Brad Lambert and Samuel Helenius. With 18:02 gone by in the first, Helenius would add his own with a helper from Koivunen.

Things were manageable for Austria by the end of the first period with the Finns only up by a score of 2-0.

But the Finns would keep adding on little by little. At the 4:11 mark of the second period, Kasper Simontaival scored from Joel Maatta and Karri Aho to make it 3-0.

Austria would get their chance to get on the board on the power play following Simontaival’s goal.

Immediately after the goal was scored, Maatta and Austria’s Marco Kasper were sent off for matching roughing minors. About a minute into the four-on-four, Finland’s Helenius was called for a hold to put Austria on the 4-on-3 man advantage beginning at 5:17.

Just 22 seconds into the 4-on-3, Martin Urbanek broke Finland’s shutout when he scored from Luca Auer and Lucas Thaler. It was now 3-1 Finland.

But that was where Austria’s comeback ended.

The Finns got that goal back when Kalle Vaisanen scored from Aho and Sami Paivarinta at the 6:34 mark of the second to make it 4-1.

Finland would add three more in the third beginning when Koivunen scored his second from Lambert and Aleksi Heimosalmi 8:40 into the final frame to make it 5-1.

At 10:25 gone by, Topi Niemela scored from Maata and Petteri Nurmi to make it 6-1.

Lambert added one more of his own at 14:13 unassisted to cap things off at 7-1.

In goal for Austria, Sebastian Wraneschitz was bombarded and largely held his own despite what the score showed, making 41 saves on 48 Finnish shots. Meanwhile, Finland’s Juha Jatkola got very little work, facing just nine Austrian shots and making eight saves.

Clearly the rink was very lopsided in favor of the Finns in terms of shots.

Finland will get a little stiffer test in their next game when they face Czechia on December 29. Things will also get tougher for Austria as they face the Canadians tomorrow.

Next we move to Group B and the WP Centrium in Red Deer where Russia was looking to get things in order against Switzerland.

This game was a little closer with the Russians coming away with the 4-2 win.

The majority of the scoring came in the first period, beginning 7:21 in when Danila Yurov scored for the Russians from Nikita Chibrikov.

A flurry of goals were added towards the end of the period when Dmitri Zlodeyev scored at the 15:42 mark for Russia from Ivan Didkovsky and then Pavel Tyutnev scored at 17:39 of the first. Tyutnev got assists from Yegor Savikov and Yurov.

The Swiss got on the board just prior to the end of the first when Attilio Biasca scored from Dario Sidler and Joshua Fahrni to make it 3-1 before the first intermission.

As much activity as there was in the first period, the second featured very little. Only a Biasca tripping minor, called at the 4:14 mark made it to the scoresheet.

The third frame would see Russia pad out their lead when phenom Matvei Michkov scored at the 11:57 mark from Semyon Demidov and Marat Khusnutdinov to make it 4-1.

The Swiss would cut that lead in half when Fabian Ritzmann scored with 2:15 remaining in the game from Dario Allenspach and Maximilian Streule. Russian head coach Sergei Zubov used his coach’s challenge to ask for a review of the Swiss being offside prior to the goal.

Replay upheld the call on the ice of good goal and the Russians would finish the game on the penalty kill, receiving a delay of game for an unsuccessful challenge.

The Swiss would pull goaltender Kevin Pasche for a 6-on-4 with about a minute to go in regulation, but the Russians held on for the 4-2 win.

In goal, the Russians went back to Yegor Guskov, who played last night in relief. He made 16 saves on 18 Swiss shots against. For Switzerland, Pasche made 28 saves on 32 Russian shots against him in another pretty one-sided game shots-wise.

Shakir Mukhamadullin played 19:40 of total ice time in the game and was an even plus/minus.

Switzerland will next play against the United States on Wednesday while Russia’s next game comes on Thursday against Slovakia.

We then moved back to Edmonton for a game between the Germans and the Czechs in what would go down as a thriller with an overtime finish.

The Czechs were without some key injuries and defenseman Michal Hradek, who was suspended for a cross check in the game against Canada on Sunday. Germany was able to take advantage of this and orchestrated a bit of an upset by winning 2-1 in OT.

After a scoreless first period, the second saw Germany take the 1-0 lead early in the period when Alexander Blank scored 4:29 in. Maciej Rutkowski and Luca Munzenberger had the assists on the goal.

Then, as these games so often do, penalties reared their ugly head and would play a role in the Czechs coming back into the game.

At the 14:55 mark, Germany’s Justin Volek was called for tripping. This put Czechia on the power play. About 30 seconds into the man advantage for the Czechs, at the 15:28 mark of the second, Germany’s Adrian Klein and Czechia’s Tomas Chlubna were assessed matching minors for roughing. This would put the Czechs on a 4-on-3 power play for about 30 seconds, as noted.

It only took twenty of those seconds for the Czechs to convert.

At 15:49 gone by, Jan Mysak scored his first of the tournament, on the power play from David Spacek and Pavel Novak to tie the game up at one each.

And that was it for scoring in regulation.

When time ran out on the third period with no change in the score, we were off to OT.

This was over quickly. Just 1:20 into bonus hockey, Blank raced up the left-wing boards and scored on Czech goaltender Jan Bednar to give the Germans the 2-1 upset win. Arkadiusz Dziambor and Danjo Leonhardt had the assists.

This was considered an upset due to the top-heavy nature of Group A with the Finns and Canadians. Germany and Czechia will be fighting for the number three and four spots in the Group and this went a long way in deciding that at this point in the tournament.

German goalie Florian Bugl made an astounding 39 saves on 40 Czech shots against while Bednar (who went in place of Devils prospect Jakub Malek) made a still-impressive 30 saves on 32 German shots against.

The Czechs will now try to regroup against Finland on Wednesday while Germany will face the Canadians on Wednesday as well. Steep climbs for both Czechia and Germany, but, again, the nature of Group A in this year’s tournament.

And from there, we moved back to the Centrium in Red Deer and Group B action between Sweden and Slovakia.

This game gave us our first shutout of the tournament as Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt took home the 3-0 win over the Slovaks.

The first goal of the game came for the Swedes on the power play. Just 6:08 into the game, Slovakia’s Jakub Demek was called for tripping which put the Swedes on the man advantage.

Less than twenty seconds into the power play, Theodor Niederbach scored from William Eklund and Helge Grans to make it 1-0.

Sweden would notch their second goal in the second period. At the 6:50 gone by mark of the second, Albert Sjoberg scored from Joel Nystrom to double up the Swedish lead at 2-0.

Sweden faced some adversity early in the third period when Simon Edvinsson was called for

tripping 41 seconds into the frame. They killed that one off and then Leo Loof was called for a game misconduct plus a five-minute major for an illegal check to the head and neck.

This penalty cost the Swedes Loof for the rest of the game (and possibly more) plus Sjoberg, who served the five-minute major. The Loof penalty occurred at the 7:31 mark of the third.

In the midst of killing off the Loof penalty, Sweden’s Elias Stenman shot the puck over the glass and was given a two-minute minor for delay of game. This gave Slovakia a two-man advantage for about a minute as the penalty occurred at 11:21 and the Loof major being served by Sjoberg was set to expire at 12:31.

Amazingly, although the Slovaks pulled goalitender Simon Latkoczy to be up three men for about ten seconds, they still could not solve Wallstedt.

Slovakia continued to pull Latkoczy but were unable to break through. Instead, the Swedes would notch their third of the night into the empty net when Daniel Ljungman scored from Stenman with 2:15 left in regulation to ice the game.

That gave us our final of 3-0 as Wallstedt was equal to all 48 Slovak shots he saw – no small feat, especially, since as pointed out by TSN color commentator Craig Button as simulcast on the NHL Network, he mostly spent the second half of the game mostly facing the Slovak power play.

Latkoczy stopped 24 of the 26 Swedish shots he saw. Sweden added a 27th shot with Ljungman’s empty netter at the end of the third – Ljungman’s second empty net goal of the tournament so far.

Alexander Holtz finished the game with an even plus/minus rating and six shots on goal in 15:21 of total ice time.

Sweden will play their next game on Wednesday against the USA while Slovakia will also play on Wednesday against Russia in their next game.

On tap for tomorrow, Tuesday, December 28, just two games: one from Group A and one from Group B. In the early game, the Americans will play Switzerland at the Red Deer Centrium in Group B. Later that evening, Canada will face Austria at Rogers Place in Edmonton in a Group A clash.

Until then, we will see you on Tuesday night for World Junior coverage. At the moment, the Devils’ game at Buffalo on Wednesday is still going on as scheduled and we will see you then as well.