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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Islanders 3, Kings 0.

The Kings needed an extra step Saturday to stop the speedy Islanders. At the end of a six-game Eastern trip, that appeared to be too much to ask.

The beneficiary of the Kings’ lethargy was Islanders goalie Al Montoya, who recorded a 35-save shutout in his first NHL start since April 9, 2009. The result was the Kings’ first regulation loss since Jan. 20, a span of 11 games during which the Kings went 8-0-3. Another win or shootout loss would have established a team record for the most consecutive games with a point.

The Islanders are 22-30-7, a mere six points out of the Eastern Conference basement. But under the circumstances — playing their second game in as many days and sixth in 10 — the Kings’ loss wasn’t as bad as it seemed on the surface. They fired 35 shots toward Montoya, blocked 14 shots and collected 18 hits (four by Dustin Brown = $200 for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

The Kings also surrendered 13 giveaways, and the Islanders were credited with 12 takeaways, which begins to hint at the extra step the New Yorkers had all night. The shots probably weren’t of the quality Terry Murray desired, either, though you couldn’t blame the Kings for firing away when throwing everything at the net might have been their only chance for victory.

Nor are the Islanders, 5-1-0 in their last six games, as much of a pushover as they were to start the season. Former King Matt Moulson scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season, burying one from a soft spot 48 feet away in the second period, then spinning to his backhand around Matt Greene in the low slot in the third. Frans Nielson scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal in the first period. Jonathan Quick finished with 20 saves.

With some relevant teams still on the ice (Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver), the Kings find themselves temporarily stuck at 68 points, tied with three other teams (Anaheim, Dallas, Calgary) on the Western Conference playoff bubble. Technically they’re ahead of the idle Flames, who have played one more game than the Kings.

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Rangers 4, Kings 3, SO.

If one point didn’t seem like enough Thursday night, Kings fans are officially spoiled.

Brandon Dubinsky’s wraparound goal with 3:08 left in the third period left the Kings trailing 3-2 at Madison Square Garden — a tall task to overcome for any team, especially one that wasn’t built to score in droves.

But Dustin Brown answered less than a minute later by coralling a Rob Scuderi shot off the end boards, then yanking the puck up and in past Henrik Lundqvist from behind the net.

When overtime began, a double-minor for high-sticking to forward Alexei Ponikarovsky gave the Rangers a 4-on-3 power play for the first four minutes. The Kings weathered that storm, too, and forced a shootout in a 3-3 game for the second straight night.

In the end, they were denied the extra point because starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier is not Jonathan Quick in the skills competition — at least not this season.
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Kings 4, Columbus 3, SO.

Jarret Stoll’s shootout goal lifted the Kings to another close win on a road trip that is slowly, surely turning their season around.

Since hitting their low point Jan. 20 at 24-22-1, the Kings have gone 8-0-2 – including 5-0-2 to start their 10-game “road trip.”

Stoll slipped a forehand past the blocker of Mathieu Garon and Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, plus three more in the shootout, to preserve the win. Justin Williams scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season, Andrei Loktionov scored his fourth and Drew Doughty scored his eighth. The Kings (32-22-3) never trailed but never pulled away, allowing the Blue Jackets (28-23-6) to answer each of their goals.

“A conference game and both teams are trying to push themselves into the playoffs,” Kings head coach Terry Murray said. “I liked our first period. I thought that was a good start. Then we started to get away from doing the right things in the second period. We were a little too fancy and a little too cute at times. We lost our responsibility in the checking part of the game. It was back and forth and we are going to need to be more focused as we move through the rest of this trip.”

A few more notes:
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Fantasy camp lineup announced.

The Kings today announced a distinguished lineup of alumni (subject to change) for their Fantasy Camp, to be held March 4-6, 2011 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo: Marty McSorley, Luc Robitaille, Marcel Dionne, Glen Murray, Jim Fox, Daryl Evans, Rob Blake, Ian Turnbull and Bernie Nicholls.

A few spots remain open (cost is $1299). More information is available at http://www.lakings.com/fantasycamp.

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Season ticket renewal letter.

If you’re a Kings season-ticket holder, you probably received an e-mail today that began like this:

Dear (You),

On behalf of the entire LA Kings organization, we would like to welcome you to your personal Season Ticket Member Locker Room. You are an important member of our team and the personal website we have created for you should answer many of the questions you have about your 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff and 2011-12 Season Ticket Renewal including your benefits, pricing, payment options as well as answers to many frequently asked questions.

Your official invoices and renewal packet will be delivered beginning February 18th.

This was followed by a link that offered the opportunity to renew your season tickets.

Another link followed asking if you or anyone you know would make a good left wing for Anze Kopitar.

Kidding on the last one.

Do enough clicking, and enough math, and you’ll find that ticket prices are increasing by an average of $3.80 if you renew by March 21 and $6.87 afterward (or if you become a first-time buyer after that date).

You might recall that around two years ago at this time, season-ticket prices were frozen from the 2008-09 season in response to the recession. Last season saw the average cost of a season ticket increase by $2.78, according to the independent Team Marketing Report.

Is this asking an arm and a leg, or a reasonable price for a couple years’ worth of success?

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Kings 1, Philadelphia 0. Updates with more tidbits.

Anze Kopitar spotted a streaking Drew Doughty 17 seconds into the second period for the only goal of the game, and Jonathan Quick’s 40-save shutout gave the Kings their seventh win in their last nine games (7-0-2).

Credit Wayne Simmonds for starting the scoring sequence by winning a puck battle behind the net with Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Simmonds fished the puck out to Kopitar in the corner, before Kopitar hit the tape of Doughty’s stick as he skated high to low through the right faceoff circle.

The game delivered on the promise of a plot between a Kings team whose GM, head coach and assistant coach were lifted straight from the Flyers organization. It wasn’t a contrast in styles, but a battle of which team could execute the same system better. On Sunday, it was the Kings by a nose.

Former Flyer Michal Handzus also played a pivotal role during a 20-second-long 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period. Handzus won the initial offensive-zone faceoff, allowing the Kings to clear the puck once, then ventured high into the offensive zone to clear the puck out again and kill the penalty.

The Flyers could not convert any of their four power plays, mustering two shots over a combined 7:40.

That helped Quick collect his sixth shutout of the season, outdueling Sergei Bobrovsky, who had an excellent 24-save performance of his own.

A few more notes …
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Kings 4, Washington 1.

Alex Ovechkin – who else – scored on the Capitals’ first shot of the game. That was the extent of the damage, and after a sluggish first period, it was all Kings.

Rather than squeak out a victory by the skin of their teeth, the Kings scored four unanswered goals and denied the same quality chances on the other end. Anze Kopitar tied the game at 1 in the second period by scoring his first goal since Jan. 15, putting back the rebound of a Wayne Simmonds shot from close range.

Andrei Loktionov put back a rebound at the end of a 2-on-1 rush with Kyle Clifford at 3:36 of the third period to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. Michal Handzus whacked in another loose puck in Semyon Varlamov’s crease at 12:28 of the third, and Jarret Stoll flew up the right wing for a much prettier goal at 13:56.

Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves, buckling down after Ovechkin’s goal 66 seconds into the game.

Going back to Dec. 27, when the Kings first slipped into a 2-10 coma, they had only beaten one opponent by three or more goals (a 5-2 win over Edmonton on Jan. 15). Since Jan. 22, they’re 6-0-2 and now have a decisive win over a good team that was booed heartily by the announced crowd of 18,398 at the Verizon Center.

A few more notes:
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Pittsburgh 2, Kings 1.

Jordan Staal’s forehand wrister with 18.4 seconds left in overtime sent the Kings to a 2-1 loss against a depleted Penguins squad.

After Los Angeles native Brett Sterling got the Pens on the board early, Jarret Stoll capitalized on a Penguins turnover to tie the game at 1 at 17:17 of the first period. Nobody scored again in a tight defensive battle until Staal’s game-winner. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves, and counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury had 32 for the Penguins.

When Quick and Fleury weren’t trading saves – mostly of the routine variety – they got help from their defense. The Kings (18) and Penguins (21) combined for 39 blocked shots, including seven alone by Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek. It was the type of game Pittsburgh needed without injured forwards Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee) and Chris Kunitz (lower body).

It was the type of game the Kings needed, too, given the depth of their recent offensive struggles. In the end, it could have gone either way. This time it went the Penguins’ way.

Optimistically, the Kings added to their point total for the seventh straight game. Pessimistically, even the latest forward permutations couldn’t find the second goal it needed to beat a weakened offensive team.

A few more notes:
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On Gretzky the Younger.

With the Kings and Penguins readying for the puck drop in Pittsburgh, a small note to pass along on Trevor Gretzky …

Wayne’s baseball-playing son, a first baseman for Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, will play Saturday in the fifth annual Southern California Invitational Showcase at Compton College. The event, held by the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau at the MLB Urban Youth Academy, will also feature Palm Desert High School third baseman/right fielder Ryan Garvey (son of Steve).

Several recent first-round draft picks have attended the event in its first five years. Trevor Gretzky, a senior, hit .341 with two home runs and 33 RBI as a junior for Oaks Christian.

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