For young forward Andrei Loktionov, this will be go-around No. 4 in the NHL. The first, two seasons ago, ended with a shoulder injury in his first game. Last season, Loktionov had two stints with the Kings, a seven-game run in October and a 12-game run in January and February. Loktionov is a natural center, but in 13 of those 19 games last season, he played left wing, and that’s where he will be tomorrow against Anaheim, alongside Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. Terry Murray has publicly said that Loktionov is more effective as a center, and in the past, Loktionov expressed some trepidation about playing on the wing, but after practice today, he sounded more comfortable with the move.
LOKTIONOV: “More comfortable now, actually. I played like 15 games (at left wing), maybe, last year, so it should be better.”
The Kings want Loktionov’s offensive ability on the second line, and he’s not about to displace Richards at center, so the Kings will hope for some improvement on the wing from Loktionov. He’s a player with a lot of potential, and the team is looking for him to make a breakthrough.
MURRAY: “I had many different scenarios in my mind, to how it would all come together in the summer time, thinking that maybe Loktionov would really feed off his opportunity from last year. I felt his training camp was off, quite frankly. In the exhibition games, in the practices, I saw some hesitation. I saw the player not handling the puck, not transporting the puck through the middle of the ice and creating in the offensive zone, as I envisioned he would be. So, with that, that’s where he ended up at the start of the year, back in Manchester. Now it’s a situation where I need a player to fit into a position. We’ve got down the middle pretty well set, so if he’s going to fit in and be a player for us, he’s up replacing a player. We’re looking for offense, we’re looking for goals, and we feel that with Loktionov fitting in there, he’s going to give us that same look, with creativity. He’s got a high IQ on the ice, I think. He’s going to make plays with Richards and Brown.
I also asked Richards if he had any early impressions of his new, young linemate…
RICHARDS: “He’s a skilled player. I think he sees the ice really well. When you have that, you can be creative. It allows you to get more time. You put yourself in the right position all the time, which he does, and he’s hard-working too. So hopefully we can get a little bit more offense going and mix it all together.”