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Kings Roster to Get Russian Flavor

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

November is only two weeks old, and it’s already been a tumultuous month for the Kings’ roster.

On Monday, rookie forward Andrei Loktionov arrived to replace injured Dustin Penner. On Tuesday, it’s quite likely that rookie defenseman Slava Voynov will arrive to replace injured Alec Martinez. This comes on the heels of Colin Fraser’s emergence as the fourth-line center after Scott Parse’s injury.

It’s been a dizzying month, but the Kings will try to maintain as much lineup normalcy as possible.

Loktionov, the leading scorer for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs this season, was called up Monday and is expected to take the place of Penner (hand injury) as the second-line left winger when the Kings host the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

Loktionov is a natural center, and coach Terry Murray has long said that he believes Loktionov is more effective in the middle of the ice, but Loktionov spent some time at left wing at the NHL level last season and Murray said he is comfortable playing Loktionov next to Mike Richards and Dustin Brown.

"With Penner going on I.R., we've talked about our scoring a lot here in the last couple years," Murray said after Monday’s practice. "We need to get our 5-on-5 scoring to have more depth, more balance. We feel with Loktionov, he's a very creative guy, he's a puck-possession player. He can, we're hoping, make some good things happen on that line. I felt comfortable using him last year with Kopitar. He played five games and went back down to the minors and came up and played some more in that situation.

"So I feel that he's got some games under his belt at that position, although I do still feel he is a center iceman. He fits there right now, again, because he's a puck-possession player and he's got a real good IQ on the ice. We're looking to see if that can get some
chemistry to start to get some scoring for us."

Then there’s the defense. The Kings hadn’t made it official, as of early Monday afternoon, but they are expected to put Martinez on injured reserve and likely call up Voynov from the AHL.

Late in the first period Saturday, Martinez took a big hit from Minnesota's Warren Peters and went shoulder-first into the glass. Martinez left the game briefly, but returned at the start of the second period, scored a goal and played the rest of the game. But Martinez isn’t expected to play Wednesday.

"He's not going to be out there for a little bit," Murray said. "On that hit that he took against Minnesota the other night, he's feeling it right now. He's going to need a little bit of time to get himself rehabbed, get back healthy again and back into the lineup.

"It's unfortunate. He came back and played. He sucked up a lot of discomfort in that game. He came back and scored a big goal on the power play and got himself through the game, playing pretty well. But as you get calmed down and the adrenaline starts to settle down, then you start to feel things. He spent all day yesterday at his place, just icing every 20 minutes or so to see how he was going to feel today, try to get some of the swelling out. It was a no-go."

That will likely create an opportunity for Voynov, who impressed in October when Drew Doughty missed five games due to injury. Voynov, like Martinez, is a puck-moving defenseman who can contribute on the power play. Before being sent back to Manchester, he had a three-point game against Dallas.

"As we go back to the time when Drew Doughty was out of the lineup with his shoulder, we need a player that's going to fit into that kind of a role," Murray said, "where he's going to play on the power play, a puck-mover, give us that special-teams look. Voynov is the player that was very good at it the last time, and he will probably get another opportunity."

If Martinez goes on injured reserve, he will miss at least the next three games. Penner is out for at least the next two games and Parse would be eligible to return Thursday at Anaheim, but Parse has not skated in practice at all since his injury, and there’s no indication that his return is on the horizon.

Penner went on the ice late in practice Monday in a yellow no-contact jersey.

Ethan Moreau, Colin Fraser, Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson and Kevin Westgarth all skated in white fourth-line jerseys in Monday’s practice, meaning Murray has a decision to make before Wednesday.

Westgarth has appeared in only six games this season and Fraser has played in only two, but has made a strong impression and is likely to stay in the line. Moreau is a veteran whose game is well-respected. That might leave Murray with a choice of whether to play Lewis or Richardson in a fourth-line wing role.

Regardless, the Kings are looking to establish a physical identity with their fourth line.

"I liked our effort in the previous two games, with the energy, and the compete was pretty good," Murray said. "We're starting to get a line on that fourth line. It's getting more of an identity, an identity that I like, with that grit and playing the hard game. With Fraser in the middle and Moreau on the left side, and I've got Westie and can move some people around in that situation, I really believe that they're a line that can give the team a lot of contagious energy.

"They can set a tone. They can go out and have a shift in the offensive zone, and everybody else can come back and feed off of that. I think that adrenaline is going to start to be there on a consistent basis."

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