The regular championship of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) 2023/2024. The first match of the game day is a clash between two teams pursuing different objectives. One endeavouring to secure a playoff position, the other vying for the top spot in the league standings. Amur in Khabarovsk will be hosting Avangard from Omsk.
Andrey Martemyanov's team have been steadily advancing towards the playoffs. At some point, only one victory remained, which Amur could secure in the match against Sibir to return to the cup quarter-finals. It seemed possible, especially as Sibir had been struggling in recent matches, while Amur was on a roll playing at home. However, a disappointing 1:4 defeat has left Amur two victories shy of the playoff zone. Of course, these two hypothetical wins are already accounted for in Amur's tally, but they still have to realise them.
At the time of writing this prediction, Amur holds the ninth spot in the league table with 50 points after 48 matches. They achieved these points through 17 regulation-time victories, four beyond it, and another eight defeats with one point. However, Amur lost the rest of the 19 matches without gaining any additional points. Their goal-scoring record is rather dismal, second to last with only 110 goals. However, their defensive record isn't too bad, fifth place with 121 conceded goals.
Mikhail Kravets's team is now making every effort to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, when Metallurg picked up an incredible pace, it became a difficult task. Still, Avangard has a chance; they just have to act upon it. So far, their Far East away matches look impressive, claiming two victories in two matches. Their first match against Admiral was a close call, with Avangard pulling off a win only in overtime. But already in the second match, Avangard convincingly defeated Admiral, despite the fact that they conceded quite a few goals.
At the time of writing this prediction, Avangard is sitting second in the table with 67 points after 48 matches. They earned these points by 20 regulation-time victories, 12 beyond that, and three overtime losses. The rest of the 13 meetings were lost without any additional points. Avangard currently hold second place in the standings with 142 goals scored. However, their defensive record is slightly worse than Amur's – they are sixth, having let in 124 goals.
Amur and Avangard have faced each other in 54 matches to date. Amur has won 13 of these encounters, whereas Avangard has triumphed in 41. This season, the teams have each claimed a victory: first, Amur won with a score of 5:1, and then Avangard responded with a 2:1 victory.
Personally, I would back Avangard – Amur are struggling with the lineup due to injuries to three of their leaders, and it's unclear how Amur aim to triumph.
There is always a risk that a visiting team might encounter unexpected difficulties in Khabarovsk. So here, I'd like to opt for TO (4.5) at odds of 2.00. Avangard should finally find their groove after two relatively dull matches.