Darcy Kuemper has been one of the biggest factors in the Arizona Coyotes’ climb to the top of the Pacific Division.
Now they will have to get by without him for the next couple of weeks.
The team announced on Friday that Kuemper, the team’s starting goalie, will be out of the lineup on a “week-to-week” basis with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury in the Coyotes’ 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night after giving up seven goals on 25 shots, by far his worst start of the season.
Adin Hill has been recalled from Tuscon of the American Hockey League to take his spot.
It’s a big loss for the Coyote because Kuemper has blossomed into one of the league’s best goalies since joining the team in late in the 2017-18 season.
His .923 save percentage since his acquisition is fifth best in the NHL since then, while his performance this year has made him one of the top contenders for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie.
Another opportunity for Raanta
The good news for the Coyotes is they still have a very capable starter — Antti Raanta — on the roster ready to fill in.
Both goalies have played at an elite level over the past couple of years and have formed one of the most productive duos in the league.
Now Raanta gets another opportunity to shine in the starting role.
He has excelled in that role since joining the Coyotes, but injuries, as well as the emergence of Kuemper, have significantly cut into his playing time the past two years.
Because of Kuemper’s play there had even been some speculation that the team should consider dangling Raanta as trade bait. But general manager John Chayka never showed any serious interest in doing that, and for good reason. Given the way NHL teams limit the workload of their starters in today’s NHL (any starter playing more than 60 games is a rarity anymore) it is a necessity to have two quality goalies on your roster, and that is even before you take into account the possibility of an injury.
With a 20-13-4 record the Coyotes are off to one of their best starts since moving to the desert and as of Friday hold the tiebreaker over the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division. The two teams play each other after the Christmas break.
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