Loktionov assigned to Manchester.

Four days after the first multipoint game of his NHL career, Andrei Loktionov is back in the AHL.

The Kings assigned the 20-year-old center to Manchester on Sunday, and Loktionov was in the starting lineup for the Monarchs’ noon (EST) game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

In his second NHL stint this season, beginning Jan. 20, Loktionov had two goals, three assists and a plus-3 rating in 12 games. He had a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating Wednesday in Columbus, and appeared to be on an upswing since head coach Terry Murray switched him from left wing to his natural center position. Yet Loktionov was made a healthy scratch Saturday in the Kings’ 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders.

That makes the timing of Loktionov’s demotion (not to mention the pretext for juggling lines in the middle of an 8-0-3 streak)less than self-explanatory. Murray told reporters prior to the Islanders game that Loktionov “got exposed a little bit in some of those important situations” – an ambiguous statement, but one that probably alludes to something Murray saw from Loktionov’s defensive abilities.

Still, with the trade deadline only eight days away, one must question what the long-term plan is for Loktionov. Is he seen as a part of the core group that will aid the Kings’ playoff push? If not, is a trade in the works? If he comes back, is he a center or a left wing?

We’ll try to get some answers when the Kings return home to practice this week.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.