Saturday, February 24, 2018
  • Lightning Strikes
  • Joe Smith

Peter Budaj excited to face former team, the Kings

For Lightning veteran backup Peter Budaj, tonight's expected start in Los Angeles is something special.

Had it not been for the Kings, Budaj, 35, may not still be in the league.

Two years ago, Budaj thought his pro career might have been over, having lost all 15 starts for Winnipeg's AHL affiliate St. John's. He received no offers in free agency, but then the Kings brought him in on a camp tryout.

"They gave me a chance when nobody else would,"  Budaj said. "This will always be a special place for me."

After a bounce-back season with the Kings' AHL affiliate, Budaj entered last season as the third goaltender before injuries to starter Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff unexpectedly thrust him into the No. 1 role. Budaj was stellar, among the league leaders in goals against average, before getting dealt to Tampa Bay in February in the Ben Bishop trade. Budaj then signed a two-year, $2.05 million deal in the summer to be Andrei Vasilevskiy's backup, giving him security he never thought he'd have at this point in his career.

"Thank God everything fell into place for me," Budaj said. "It was pretty special the way things worked out. That's why you never know what's going to happen in hockey. I was very blessed that everything worked out in my favor. Sometimes, you don't know how quick things can change."

More notes: Coach Jon Cooper earned  his 200th NHL win Wednesday in San Jose, joining John Tortorella as the only other coach to complete that feat in Tampa Bay… D Jake Dotchin scored his first NHL goal Wednesday, a one-timer from above the right circle. He pumped both fists in the air, then slammed the boards in celebration. "Obviously it was exciting, something I've looked forward to for sure," he said.  RW Nikita Kucherov' scored his 15th goal in the team's 16th game, making him the third fastest to reach 15 since 2000-01, joining Steven Stamkos (16 in 2010-11), Dany Heatley (15, 2005-06), Daniel Alfredsson (16, 2005-06), Simon Gagne (12, 2005-06). Vladislav Namestnikov's two goals Wednesday gave him seven in 16 games, just three shy of his total from all of last season (10). . RW J.T. Brown has been impressive since rejoining the lineup two weeks ago, and coaches seem to think so, too, as his 14:46 even-strength TOI ranked fourth among forwards (behind only Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Namestnikov). F Chris Kunitz played in his 900th career game Wednesday.  Stamkos said facing the Kings (11-2-2) will be a "character-test" for his team, which is 12-2-2.

Comments
NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

RALEIGH, N.C. — The  Penguins acquired center Derick Brassard from the Senators on Friday night in a three-team deal that sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Golden Knights.The Penguins announced the deal...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

Can the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning these days, there's only one question that really matters:Will the Lightning win the Stanley Cup?That's it. That's the big question. That's the only thing on everyone's mind.Will it or won't it?Does this ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk wonít die down until deadline is over

Erik Karlsson-to-Lightning talk wonít die down until deadline is over

MONTREAL — Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson sure seemed chatty with his Lightning friends as he left the Canadian Tire Center on Thursday night.Karlsson, 27, took his time talking up several members of Tampa Bay's staff in the hallway out...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

You can bet that many Lightning fans hoped Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson jumped on Tampa Bay's bus after Thursday night's 4-3 Lightning win.Karlsson, 27, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, is the biggest prize leading up to Monday's trade...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

Lightning escapes for 4-3 win in Ottawa

OTTAWA – The Lightning was encouraged it escaped Ottawa with a 4-3 win over the Senators on Thursday night.But it was really disappointed about how it had to "hold on to dear life," as defenseman Victor Hedman put it, after taking a three-goal ...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
U-S-A! U-S-A! Womenís hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

U-S-A! U-S-A! Womenís hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it, too.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth ...
Published: 02/22/18
Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons for the move.With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net and a rele...
Published: 02/21/18
The entire Lightning team was sent to Syracuse late Tuesday. Really

The entire Lightning team was sent to Syracuse late Tuesday. Really

On Tuesday night, the entire Lightning team was reassigned to Syracuse.Well, more like re-directed.The team's charter flight from Washington D.C. was diverted around midnight Tuesday night due to fog in Ottawa, where the Lightning was headed for a Th...
Published: 02/21/18
Lightning claims Gabriel Dumont off waivers

Lightning claims Gabriel Dumont off waivers

The Lightning got F Gabriel Dumont back, claiming him off waivers Wednesday from Ottawa.Dumont, 27, was reassigned to AHL Syracuse, where he will provide a veteran presence. He's a potential callup option down the stretch for a bottom six role and fa...
Published: 02/21/18
Nikita Kucherovís trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

Nikita Kucherovís trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

WASHINGTON — There was some lighthearted debate in the Lightning dressing room Tuesday night about whether the latest dazzling breakaway move by Nikita Kucherov was a deliberate fake or a slip off the stick.Some teammates playfully gave the All...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18