Andrei Loktinov is back with the Kings, in a high-profile role. He will be the first-line left winger tonight, alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and Terry Murray indicated that Loktionov will get power-play time as well. Loktionov made the Kings’ roster coming out of training camp and had one goal and one assist in seven games — he was a healthy scratch in four other games — before he was assigned to Manchester of the AHL on Nov. 2. With the Monarchs, Loktionov was the only player on a point-per-game pace, with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 31 games. He also missed some time recently, as he had to return to Russia after the death of his father, but in his three games after his return, Loktionov had two goals and two assists. After today’s morning skate, Murray talked about his decision to put Loktionov on the first line.
MURRAY: “We gave that a look in the early part of the year. He’s a very high-skilled player that, I think, can create a lot of 5-on-5 (chances). He’s got great composure with the puck, and he’s going to add to the power play, with his abilities there to show the composure, settle it down, maybe open some ice up with that composure when pressured. Settle it, make good plays. We’re hoping we can get some good results on the power play with him there. … We’re not looking for him to be the answer, and have the whole weight on his shoulders. We just want him to be a good player. He was a good player at the start of the year for us. He wasn’t quite ready. He went back down to Manchester and kept working on his game. He was one of the better players — maybe the best player — down there. He was one of the better players in the league. So his game is starting to come together as a pro, and we want him to be a good player. That’s all. Don’t shoulder any other responsibilities in that area.”
Loktionov is a natural center and, frankly, looked far more comfortable at center than at wing early in the season, but the current opening is for a winger, and Loktionov is happy to fill it.
LOKTIONOV: “I have played left wing only 10 games in my life, probably, so it’s tough to say [what he learned from playing wing earlier]. Everything is different. … But I don’t care. I just want to play and be here.”
He’s also happy with the upgrade in weather. There’s a high of 28 degrees in Manchester today, compared to 74 degrees in Los Angeles.
LOKTIONOV: “It’s a little bit hot [laughs]. In Manchester, there’s so much snow and we cannot drive cars. It was so bad. Yesterday, we go — with Slava [Viatcheslav Voynov] — to lunch, and we had to push his car. Some people helped us.”