EL SEGUNDO—Slava Voynov and Andrei Loktionov practiced Tuesday morning with the Kings at Toyota Sports Center, the latest opportunity for the 21-year-old Russians to demonstrate they can be more than just a temporary bandage for a banged-up club.
Voynov replaced Alec Martinez on the 23-man roster after Martinez went on injured reserve with an upper-body injury suffered Saturday night against visiting Minnesota. He’ll again pair up with Willie Mitchell for back-to-back games against the Ducks on Wednesday at Staples Center and Thursday at Honda Center.
Drew Doughty will team up with Jack Johnson, and Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene will form the third defensive pair.
“I’m so excited to come back,” said Voynov, who made his NHL debut while playing five games earlier this season when Doughty was sidelined with a shoulder injury. “I feel good because coach trusts me.”
Loktionov was called up from Manchester on Sunday to take the place of Dustin Penner, who was placed on IR retroactive to Thursday with a hand injury. He’ll get his latest opportunity playing left wing on the second line with center Mike Richards and Dustin Brown.
“They’re good players, they can find me everywhere,” Loktionov said. “I just need to leave my stick on the ice.”
Loktionov played one game with the Kings in the 2009-10 season and two stints with the club last season, totaling four goals and three assists in 19 games. He was given an opportunity make the team out of training camp this season but lost out to Trevor Lewis for the fourth-line center role.
“I felt his training camp was off, quite frankly,” Kings coach Terry Murray said of Loktionov. “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.”
Loktionov is a natural center who struggled with the physical play of left wing while briefly on the top line last season with Brown and Anze Kopitar. With the addition of Richards in the offseason, the Kings are even deeper at center than last season, meaning Loktionov will need to demonstrate some versatility if he’s going to stick around for the long haul.
“Now it’s a situation where I need a player to fit into a position, we’ve got down the middle pretty well set,” Murray said. “We’re looking for offense, we’re looking for goals and we feel that with Loktionov fitting in there now, he’s going to give us that same look.”
Richards likes what he has seen so far.
“He sees the ice really well,” Richards said. “When you have that, you can be creative and it allows you to get more time to put yourself in the right position.”
Voynov was the last cut coming out of training camp and fit in well with the Kings during his five-game audition last month during Doughty’s absence. He had two goals and an assist as the Kings went 4-1 with him in the lineup. Since he was returned to Manchester, the Kings are 2-4-2.
Doughty and Johnson are both offensive-minded defensemen, but they’ve spent time together on the power play and during a few stretches over the previous three seasons.
“They’re coming of age, where they play hard for each other now,” Murray said. “There’s always a time early in a career when you’re young, you want to try to do a lot of stuff out there, but right now it’s about the team and about a pair being very good, playing a lot of minutes, playing important, critical situations and getting the job done.”
If the Kings can get some of those qualities from Voynov and Loktionov, they might become less of a patch this time around, and more a part of the team’s fabric.