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Lokti Returns, as do Smyth and Simmonds

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
If nothing else, the change in climate was enough to make Andrei Loktionov smile.

Yesterday, Loktionov left Manchester, N.H., where the temperature was in the 30s and the ground was covered in snow and ice, and landed in Los Angeles, where the temperature is perpetually in the range of 70-to-75 degrees.

``It's a little bit hot,’’ Loktionov said with a laugh. ``In Manchester, there's much snow and we cannot drive cars. It was so bad. Yesterday, we go -- with Slava [teammate Viatcheslav Voynov] -- to lunch, and we had to push his car. Some people helped us.''

Andre Loktionov, now #12, was recalled from Manchester on Thursday and will start at left wing beside Kopitar and Brown tonight vs. Phoenix.
Loktionov has other reasons to be pleased. After spending the past two-and-a-half months in Manchester, he got the call yesterday to rejoin the Kings, and will be in the lineup tonight when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at STAPLES Center.

The Kings on Thursday placed winger Marco Sturm on injured reserve -- retroactive to Tuesday -- with knee tendinitis -- and Loktionov will go into the lineup. Wayne Simmonds will also return, after missing the previous two games.

Loktionov will have a high-profile debut, as he is scheduled to skate as the first-line left winger alongside center Anze Kopitar and right winger Dustin Brown.

``He's a very high-skilled player that, I think, can create a lot of 5-on-5 (chances),’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``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.''

Loktionov, a 20-year-old rookie, made the Kings’ roster out of training camp and had one goal and one assist in seven games -- he was a healthy scratch in four other games -- before the Kings assigned him to Manchester on Nov. 4.

 Since then, Loktionov has been on a point-per-game pace with the Monarchs. He’s third on the team with 31 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 31 games this season.

``We're not looking for him to be the answer, and have the whole weight on his shoulders,’’ Murray said. ``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 has spent almost his entire professional career in the middle, but said he doesn’t mind.

``I have played left wing only 10 games in my life, probably,’’ Loktionov said, ``but I don't care. I just want to play and be here.''

Sturm’s knee issue, it seems, had been lingering for a while. Sturm had major surgery to repair his right knee last year, and had recently returned from that, but the tendinitis is in his left knee. Murray was asked if Sturm had been complaining about recent knee pain.

``I don't think there were any complaints about it,’’ Murray said. ``It was noticeable, though. I think, in his game, you're seeing a player that once he gets warmed up and into the game-playing mode on the ice, he's not showing any issue with it. But I personally do see him having some problems coming off the bus, getting onto the plane, walking around the rink.

``There's a big push, with him, to get to that game mode in a very short period of time. He's coming from Boston, and we're looking to get him into the games at full speed. I think the stress on that just created some of that tendinitis that needs to calm down now. We'll back away for a few days and get some treatment and some rehab on the off-ice part of it, and stay off the ice so it can settle itself. Then we'll go from there.''

Wingers Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds will return to the lineup tonight after minor lower-body injuries.
Sturm had four goals and four assists in 15 games with the Kings after being traded from Boston and finishing his rehabilitation from the knee surgery. By being placed on injured reserve, Sturm will miss at least the next three games.

The news was better for Simmonds and Ryan Smyth.

Simmonds, who missed the previous two games with a lower-body injury, will be able to play tonight, as will Smyth, who left practice Wednesday after being hit by a shot.

Smyth required stitches after he was hit on the lower part of the leg, but was able to fully participate in Thursday’s morning skate a day after the injury.

``I couldn't feel my foot for a little while there,’’ Smyth said.

Also, Scott Parse, who underwent hip surgery in November, returned to the ice for the first time on Thursday for some post-practice conditioning skating.  There is no timetable as to when Parse might be able to return to practice or game action.

Loktionov, Kopitar and Brown will make up the Kings’ first line, and they will stay with a line of Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. Trevor Lewis will center Kyle Clifford and Simmonds while Michal Handzus will center Brad Richardson and Kevin Westgarth.

There will be some tweaking on defense as well, as Willie Mitchell moves back to the left side and will partner with Drew Doughty. Jack Johnson will partner with Rob Scuderi and Alec Martinez will remain in a pair with Matt Greene. Jonathan Quick starts in goal.

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