Thursday, November 1, 2018

Kings coach John Stevens confident in backup goalies Jack Campbell, Peter Budaj

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LOS ANGELES — Kings No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick will be out three to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the team reported Wednesday.

But the sky is not falling because the Kings have a solid backup in Jack Campbell, who for now will take over the top job. And veteran Peter Budaj, who did a fine job for the Kings in 2016-17 when Quick was hurt that season, will be the No. 2 guy.

Kings coach John Stevens is confident these two can hold down the fort until Quick returns.

“Well, I think you’ve seen that situation arise before where I think when there’s an opportunity, you look at it as exactly that – an opportunity,” Stevens said at the Thursday morning skate ahead of his team’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Staples Center. “Guys that are in the backup role are always looking for an opportunity to play more.

“They work extremely hard on their game to refine their skills and be ready. And now when that opportunity comes, you want them to be ready.”

Campbell was first off the ice Thursday morning, meaning he was expected to start against the Flyers. He played one game for Dallas in 2013-14, one for the Kings in 2016-17 and five for them last season, when he earned his first NHL victory Feb. 27 at Vegas.

Quick only played four of the first 11 games this season. He played the first, missed the next five, then played three. Campbell has started seven, played in eight and has a goals-against-average of 2.72.

That number is a bit misleading because the team, which was 3-7-1 before Thursday, has not played all that well in front of its goaltenders. In 14 career games with the Kings, Campbell has a GAA of 2.54.

“Jack’s come a long way,” Stevens said. “He’s worked hard at his game, he’s gone down to the minors and really performed well.”

Now Campbell is in a position to really show his wares.

And then there is Budaj. He was recalled Sunday from Ontario of the AHL after it was learned Saturday after practice that Quick might not be right. Budaj played 53 games for the Kings in ’16-’17 when Quick played just 17 games that season because of injury. Budaj played very well, producing a GAA of 2.12. His career GAA in 366 games is 2.69.

Stevens is ready to roll with Budaj, 36, as the backup to Campbell.

“We have full confidence in Peter,” Stevens said. “We’re expecting him to work hard at his game right now so he’s ready to go in and take advantage of the opportunity when we need him to go in and win a hockey game for us.”


Forward Gabe Vilardi got a late start to the 2017-18 season because of a back issue. Many thought the 19-year-old could make the team out of training camp, before the back issue flared up again.

Vilardi has been practicing with the team for several days now, but in a red jersey, meaning no contact. He acknowledged it’s been tough to have this happen in consecutive seasons.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “I mean, it’s the second year in a row I haven’t been able to come into training camp or do anything. It’s been frustrating, but you try to keep a positive mindset and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Vilardi said he does not have a timetable for his return, saying that decision is up to the team.

“They talk to me, I talk to them,” he said. “There’s a lot of people involved and we go from there kind of thing.”

Stevens said the plan was to get Vilardi on the ice with the team four consecutive days last week, and perhaps five this week.

“Credit to him,” Stevens said. “He’s worked hard, he’s come into practice and fit in pretty good. He handles the pace, thinks the game really well.”


Defenseman Sean Walker and forward Austin Wagner were recalled from Ontario on Thursday, a day after they were sent there. … Defenseman Paul LaDue (upper-body) missed the morning skate and was not expected to play against the Flyers. … The Kings next take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

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