The New Jersey Devils were riding high at this time last month, but are now struggling and sliding in the standings. However, there has been a bright spot in the darkness and that is the play of center Andrei Loktionov which is why he is the player of the week.
Loktionov was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on February 6th in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Initially, Loktionov was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Albany, but since getting called up on February 17th, his play has been steadily improving and his ice time is growing.
While the rest of the team is struggling to find the net, Loktionov has points in five consecutive games, three goals and two assists. The 22 year old Russian scored two goals this week and registered one assist.
The last two games he has centered the top line with fellow countryman, Ilya Kovalchuk.
“He’s good,” Kovalchuk commented after yesterday’s shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres about his new linemate. “I think Pete has started to trust him more defensively, so I think he was a really good addition for us. He never got a chance in L.A. I think it’s great he’s getting an opportunity to play here on the top two lines.”
“Right now, anybody that can consistently create offense for us is important,” Coach Pete DeBoer said of Loktionov’s play. “He’s the one guy the last five or six games that’s been doing that.”
Loktionov was a draft pick of the Kings in the 2008 draft, but felt he did not get much of a chance to play in Los Angeles and was happy to join the Devils last month.
His goal yesterday against the Sabres tied the score in regulation.
“It’s nice to score goals,” Loktionov said after the game. “But if you win, it would be much better. My game is going. It’s very important the coaches trust me. That’s all I need.”