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Hockey

After starting season in minors, goalie Peter Budaj has been saving the day for the Kings

Peter Budaj

Goaltender Peter Budaj returns to Montreal to face one of his former teams, the Canadiens, after recording consecutive shutouts for the Kings.

(Harry How / Getty Images)

Presenting the NHL goalies with the most victories, heading into Wednesday night’s action.

 

Eight wins: Carey Price of Montreal and Cam Talbot of Edmonton.

 

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Seven wins: Tuukka Rask of Boston, Peter Budaj of the Kings and Henrik Lundqvist of the  New York Rangers

One of those five goaltenders started the season in the American Hockey League and, before that, went unclaimed on waivers before the regular season and was the No. 3 goalie on the organizational depth chart.

It was Budaj.

So what better time to revisit an old workplace, Montreal, after shutouts in consecutive games?

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“It’s a great place to play,” said Budaj. “One of my friends told me if you don’t get up for the game in Montreal, I don’t think you like hockey.”

Budaj played three seasons with the Canadiens. He spoke, again, about his journey back to the NHL and turn in the spotlight after injuries to Kings All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick and No. 2 goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Zatkoff is on this trip and backed up Budaj in Toronto on Tuesday.

“It’s really an amazing thing for me to be back and to play hockey in the NHL,” Budaj said. “You don’t want to go in when somebody gets hurt. It’s always tough and you never wish anybody bad. On the other hand, it’s a chance for me to show people I can still do it and I can still play and I still love the game. … I’m enjoying every moment.”

Budaj’s consecutive shutouts were Saturday against Calgary and Tuesday against Toronto. His goals-against average is 1.86 and save percentage is .919.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter was critical of Budaj after the Kings lost to the Ducks last week. That was the third straight game in which the Kings were shut out. Since then, they’ve outscored their opponents, 15-2, in their last three games.

“Goalies don’t play great every game. I know you guys are spoiled a little bit, but they don’t play great every game,” Sutter said Wednesday.  “But when you only give up 20 shots, then you expect 20 saves. That’s not a high demand.”

Budaj is trying to keep the narrowest possible focus. That has worked for him.

“Every time I start thinking about the future and playing for the future, it’s wrong,” he said. “You’ve got to play for the next game.”

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Suspension Over

Kings defenseman Tom Gilbert, another former Montreal player, is eligible to return to the lineup after a three-game suspension for boarding Ducks forward Nick Ritchie last week.

“He’s given us some depth,” Sutter said. “Unfortunately, he was suspended. He was just starting to play well. Our defense is much more mobile than it was a year ago. And I think he’s helped us with that.”

UP NEXT

AT MONTREAL

When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. (PST).

On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.

Update: A very good reason to tune in early: The Canadiens, in a pregame ceremony, will be honoring Rogie Vachon. The goalie, who played for Montreal and the Kings, will be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.          

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