However, the crafty Russian seemed to be playing much better since returning to his natural center position when the just-completed road trip began.
After practice today coach Terry Murray offered some insight into the decision…
Regarding moving him back to center, “that’s where his game started to look more comfortable. He had the puck on his stick a lot. He scored a nice goal in Washington off of a rebound by (Kyle) Clifford.”
Before the road trip ‘team speed’ was a key focus. Did he notice a lack of speed with Loktionov out of the line-up vs. the Islanders? “No I didn’t. But, he does bring that. Once you get back to the middle of the ice you can see what we’ve always talked about and hope to see (from him) as a player…he has the puck, he’s the guy who has great vision on the ice, can make some plays and have some good results. We saw it and we like it.”
Murray’s concern was more on the defensive side of things, especially towards the end of the road trip – “When you get into those real competitive games, as we we’re in against the Rangers – you know, it’s one goal, it’s back and forth – there were three or four looks they had because of (us) losing some coverage. He just got exposed in it.”
Overall, he said Loktionov “played well” and “I love the kid. He brings skill level and a great competitive attitude. He really is a player who’s going to be a long time player for the LA Kings.”
So, what’s next? Well, if Loktionov “can get some rest, get himself gathered in, and start to contribute again with Manchester, he’s only a phone call away.”
All Hail the Kings and Their Men – notes on LA at Washington , including Loktionov’s goal