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Key Names in the Queue for Possible Return in Montreal

Positive updates provided on Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as Coyotes prep for Canadiens

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

An air of optimism was received from head coach Rick Tocchet following Sunday afternoon's practice in Montreal, where the Coyotes continued preparations for a date with the Canadiens on Monday evening.

Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson practiced in full and have both been labeled as game-time decisions for tomorrow night's contest at Bell Centre.

"We'll see how they react tomorrow," Tocchet added. "They felt pretty good out there, which is nice to hear."

Ekman-Larsson has missed the last four games after suffering a lower-body injury against the Los Angeles Kings on January 30; the Coyotes' captain has practiced on both days of the road trip thus far.

Kuemper has been out since December 19 when he went down with a lower-body injury in the late stages of the Coyotes' 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Wild. He has been inactive for the team's last 20 games.

The All-Star netminder has been practicing in abbreviated capacities since early January but took a positive step forward in Montreal, fielding shots and participating in drills without any restrictions.

"He had the net by himself which is positive, he didn't have to share the net," Tocchet said. "You always like to see your goalies have the net the whole time and not switch off."

Video: Practice Update - Rick Tocchet: 2/9/20 Montreal

The Coyotes have gone 7-10-3 during Kuemper's absence.

Prior to suffering his injury, Kuemper posted a 15-8-2 record in 25 starts, flashing a 2.17 GAA that continues to rank second in the NHL among qualified goaltenders, and a .929 SV% that sits tied for second.

"Kuemps has been our best player, for the last year he's been our guy," Tocchet told reporters. "Saying that, I don't want to put pressure on him, he's just got to go play his game, we still have to do the right things in front of him."

Whether he returns tomorrow night, Tuesday night, or even later, Kuemper's presence in the locker room - and in net - will undoubtedly provide a shot in the arm to a Coyotes team that could certainly benefit from an extra spark.

"Personally, Kuemps is a guy that gives the team confidence," Tocchet said. "He doesn't have to put the world on his shoulders, he's just got to go play, be Kuemps, and when he plays that's what we expect him to do."

Antti Raanta remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Adin Hill , who made 30 saves in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Bruins, is ready if called upon.

"I liked our game in Boston, we were under tough circumstances and we played a good game, I've got to give guys credit," Tocchet said. "So, you build on that, confidence, you can't be down about it because we're in the thick of the race and we've got to put some wins together."

With or without Kuemper or Ekman-Larsson, one thing's for certain: the next 'biggest' game of the season awaits the Coyotes when they face-off against the Canadiens, a battle between identical 27-23-7 records.

Lead Photo Credit: Mark Blinch - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari - NHLI via Getty Images

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