February 14, 2011 5:50 pm

Loktionov sharp at center; Sturm update

The Kings added a new player during this road trip. Technically, it’s the same guy, in the same jersey, but Andrei Loktionov seems to have transformed himself a bit in the past couple games, and there’s no mystery. Loktionov, a natural center, had been playing wing for the previous three weeks, mostly out of necessity, and didn’t look bad but also seemed to be playing with a level of tentativeness and uncertainty. Moved back to center, with wingers Kyle Clifford and Dustin Brown, Loktionov has looked far more comfortable in the offensive zone. On Sunday, in a game in which the Flyers dominated in the faceoff circle — winning 60 percent of the draws — Loktionov hung in there, winning 4 of 9, and drew overall praise from Terry Murray.

MURRAY: “He’s an instinctive hockey player. The high-skilled guys need to play the game that way, with their instincts, and just kind of let it flow. He certainly feels much more comfortable in the middle of the ice than on the wing. It’s more of a flow game for him in the middle of the ice. His reaction to what’s going on when they have possession of the puck, his reads without the puck are difference and come instinctively for him. I think he has just stepped it up to a different level here, with the change.”

Is Loktionov going to make things difficult on the Kings? Marco Sturm is eligible to return from the injured list at any point, the Kings currently don’t have any open roster spots and Loktionov is the only waivers-ineligible forward would could go to the AHL. Murray indicated that the Kings might not have to make that decision in the next few days…

MURRAY: “Well, with Marco, I don’t want to say that they’re tied at the hip, when it comes to that decision. But right now with Marco, going back to the start of the road trip, the plan was to have two days of practice here in Columbus, certainly for Marco, in particular. But with today being a day off, he will have to get it in tomorrow. It really comes down to Marco getting himself ready to play. We’ve got to push him in the practice and get him in competitive drills and battling drills, so he feels the game and getting accustomed to that part of the game again. Once we get him going there, then we have to make a decision as to whether we’re going to get him in or not. But I need to see that in his practices, first of all.”

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