Goalie nods: Kuemper, Kinkaid make rare starts

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It’s an usually busy Monday night in the NHL, with a couple of unusual starting assignments.

Let’s begin in Dallas, where the visiting Minnesota Wild will give Darcy Kuemper the nod for just the fourth time this season. Kuemper has spent most of the year watching Devan Dubnyk, and with good reason — Dubnyk has been one of the NHL’s best, posting a .948 save percentage and 1.59 GAA, with four shutouts.

Kuemper, though, has won two of his three starts, including a 35-save effort against Ottawa two weeks ago.

To be perfectly honest, it may not matter who the Wild start in goal. The team is mired in an offensive slump, which prompted head coach Bruce Boudreau to note that “we can’t win a lot of games if we only score two goals.”

Kuemper looks as though he’ll take on Antti Niemi, as he was the first goalie off at Dallas’ morning skate.

In San Jose, there’s another rare nod on the horizon as Keith Kinkaid will give Cory Schneider the evening off. Kinkaid, like Kuemper, hasn’t played much at all — this will also be just his fourth start of the season — but the New Jersey backup has fared very well in his limited body of work.

Kinkaid is 2-0-1 on the year with a .944 save percentage and 1.66 GAA, and will do battle against a Sharks team that’s struggling to score goals right now.

For the Sharks, Martin Jones is in goal.

Elsewhere…

Brian Elliott returns to the Flames’ goal, after Chad Johnson started four in a row (winning three of ’em). He’ll be up against Robin Lehner, who has lost his last five.

— It’s expected that Antti Raanta will give Henrik Lundqvist a break, and get the start in Pittsburgh. The Penguins look like they’ll go with Marc-Andre Fleury, the first goalie off at the morning skate.

— Colorado will start Semyon Varlamov, after Calvin Pickard played in Thursday’s loss to Dallas. No word yet on a Columbus starter, but head coach John Tortorella has used Sergei Bobrovsky almost exclusively this season.

— Good (and tall) matchup in Nashville: 6-foot-8 Ben Bishop and the Bolts take on 6-foot-6 Pekka Rinna and the Preds.

— After Scott Darling played great in a comeback win over Vancouver on Saturday, Corey Crawford returns to start for the ‘Hawks. He’ll be up against Cam Talbot, who goes for the host Oilers.

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