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Tocchet: Kuemper still adjusting to role of Coyotes’ lead goaltender

Dallas Stars right wing Alexander Radulov (47) shoots the puck at Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) before it slips past for a goal as Stars center Tyler Seguin (91), Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) and Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Darcy Kuemper has done an admirable job filling in for Arizona Coyotes starting goaltender Antti Raanta this season.

His 2.73 goals against average and 13 wins are reasons why the Coyotes are just four points behind a playoff spot with 25 games to go.

Kuemper, however, has never been in the position of main stopper in his eight-year NHL career.

The next game he plays for the Coyotes this season — likely Thursday against the St. Louis Blues — will be the most he has played in a single season for his career.

Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet told Burns and Gambo he doesn’t know far he will be able to ride the 28-year-old because of that and plans to give him ample rest to keep him fresh down the stretch.

“[Kuemper] has never really been the starting goalie but because Raanta is out, this is his first time playing that role,” Tocchet said Wednesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “He has some issues and we need to make sure we are giving his some rest for him to get healthy.”

In addition to his lack of a heavy season-long workload, Kuemper has faced his own injury issues this season.

He was placed on the injured reserve in late November and missed two weeks with a lower body injury.

When Kuemper can’t go, the Coyotes do have a solid backup plan.

Calvin Pickard has been solid in his two appearances and Adin Hill has a 2.76 goals against average in 13 games this season.

“The playoffs start now for us, let’s face it,” Tocchet said. “We do a good job of just looking at the next game but we have a five-game stretch coming up with four division games.”

Injury Updates

Tocchet said that several Coyotes were progressing well in their return from injuries.

Center Brad Richardson (upper body) “will probably play” against the Blues, according to Tocchet.

Richardson was the Coyotes’ leading goal scorer before going on the injured reserve in early January.

Center Christian Dvorak, who is on the mend from a torn pectoral, likely will start a rehab trip with the Tucson Roadrunners soon before rejoining the Coyotes, per Tocchet.

Tocchet added that defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) is “probably another three weeks away” from returning.

“We are starting to get some traction [on the injury front],” Tocchet said. “There are guys on the horizon who can bolster our team. It’s almost like the trade deadline or something.”

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