EL SEGUNDO – Peter Budaj demonstrated last season how much it pays to be the Kings’ backup goalie.
Just over $2 million, in his case.
At the ripe age of 35, Budaj earned a two-year contract from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason with an annual value of $1.025 million on the strength of his performance filling in for the injured Jonathan Quick last season.
Playing behind the Kings defense certainly didn’t hurt his 2.18 goals-against average that ranked third in the NHL.
Budaj’s celebrated performance last season only makes the ongoing training camp battle to backup Quick more intriguing. It got more interesting Friday night in Anaheim.
With offseason signee Darcy Kuemper, the favorite to make the Kings’ roster along with Quick, in China for a pair of exhibition games, Jack Campbell and rookie Cal Petersen got their first opportunities of the preseason against the Ducks on Friday.
Both left an impression.
Campbell, also a beneficiary of Quick’s absence last season by sliding into the starting role for the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Ontario Budaj occupied the previous year, saved the first 19 shots of the game.
He peaked early in the second period when he stoned the Ducks on a breakaway. And Campbell had virtually no chance to save the Ducks power play goal that turned out to be his lone allowance.
Campbell spent his first offseason away from his hometown of Port Huron, Mich., opting to train in L.A. this summer an effort to retain the positive momentum he gained with an AHL-leading 31 wins last season.
“It was a hard summer and a lot of hard work,” Campbell said. “Some of the things I put emphasis on definitely came out (Friday) night. But I know I can still get better and I’m a long ways from where I want to be.”
With just two career games at the NHL level since the Dallas Stars made him the 11th overall pick of the 2010 draft, Campbell hasn’t come close to living up to expectations. His .914 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average last season didn’t exactly raise eyebrows, but his performance against an Anaheim team with plenty of NHL experience on the ice was a positive step.
“My goal is to make the Kings,” Campbell said. “But all I can do is go out and play well.”
Kuemper’s 102 games of NHL experience as the Minnesota Wild backup for several years give him the clear edge to crack the Kings’ roster. Kuemper signed with the Kings in the offseason after the 2009 sixth-round draft pick…