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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Strong Sibir defence can keep scoreline respectable

CSKA may struggle to dominate

Mikhail Grigorenko (right) has joined CSKA Moscow from Colorado
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CSKA Moscow v Sibir Novosibirsk
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Last term's regular-season table toppers CSKA Moscow haven't made the smoothest of starts to the Kontinental Hockey League campaign, but they are warm favourites to see off Sibir Novosibirk. 

Red Army have won four of their opening five matches of the season, but needed overtime to get past Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and Dinamo Minsk.

Those efforts were mixed with impressive wins over Dynamo Moscow (6-1) and last time out against Avangard Omsk in CSKA's home opener (3-0).

Just two teams have bettered CSKA's tally of 15 goals while only champions SKA St Petersburg have put more than one goal past them, so it's hard to spot a weakness in Red Army's armour.

However, they could find Sibir's defences tricky to break down.

After several years of punching above their weight, Sibir failed to make the playoffs last season and ended the campaign on the verge of financial ruin.

In order to survive they had to offload much of their forward talent. Their top three scorers from last term, Maxim Shalunov, Sergei Shumakov and Konstantin Okulov were sold to CSKA for Can$10m and the trio should all be in action against their old club.

But the Sibir defence remains largely intact and goalkeeper Alexander Salak, whose season was blighted by injury last term, has made a superb start to the new campaign.

The Siberians won their first three games of the season, but have lost their last two and are unlikely to get back to winning ways here. However, they can make CSKA work for a low-scoring victory.

Recommendation
Under 4.5 goals
1pt 17-20 Hills 

Just two teams have bettered CSKA's tally of 15 goals while only champions SKA St Petersburg have put more than one goal past them
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