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Kuemper to start for Coyotes against Panthers

Goalie has been out since sustaining lower-body injury Dec. 19

by Alan Robinson / Independent Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Darcy Kuemper will start for the Arizona Coyotes against the Florida Panthers at Gila River Arena on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SNE, SNP, SNO (JIP), FS-A, FS-A PLUS, FS-F, NHL.TV).

The goalie has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 19. He went through a full practice Monday. He is 15-8-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 25 games.

"He's been our best our best player, for the last year, year and a half," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. "Now we got our best player back. Goaltending hasn't been our problem, but this just strengthens our goaltending."

The Coyotes (31-26-8) are 11-13-4 since Kuemper was injured, with Antti Raanta (14-14-3, 2.65 GAA) getting most of the playing time. Arizona is tied with the Calgary Flames for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, and two points behind the Vancouver Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division.

Kuemper was close to returning until he had a setback during the morning skate Feb. 10 at the Montreal Cannadiens. He played on a conditioning assignment at Tucson of the American Hockey League on Saturday, making 26 saves on 28 shots against Stockton.

"It's mental when you're hurt, a lot of mental games in your head where you just can't get over the hump and I think that's one of them," Tocchet said. "It's been trying mentally but he's made it back and now hopefully it's all good stuff for him from here on in.

"It's like making a trade at the trade deadline, we got our starter back. But we've gotten some really good goaltending."

Kuemper was chosen for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Jan. 25 but was unable to play because of his injury.

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