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.