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Coyotes G Darcy Kuemper will start in must-win game at Vegas

Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford, left, celebrates a goal by Kings' Trevor Lewis with Kings center Jeff Carter (77) as injured Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) stays on the ice while Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton (44) skates past during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper will start in goal for the team’s penultimate game of the season Thursday, according to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro.

After he took a stick to the face Tuesday during a loss against Los Angeles Kings, Kuemper traveled to Las Vegas with the Coyotes as they prepared to face the Golden Knights in a must-win game in order to keep their Wild Card hopes alive.

Backup goalie Calvin Pickard was the likely candidate to start in Kuemper’s place if he was not able to go but Pickard has appeared just twice for the Coyotes since Feb. 18. Pickard replaced Kuemper when he suffered the facial injury Tuesday, making five saves and holding Los Angeles scoreless in 15:16 of ice time.

On Wednesday, Arizona had recalled goalie Adin Hill from the Tucson Roadrunners, a sign the team was prepared to face Vegas without Kuemper.

A seventh-year pro, Kuemper has put together a career year, posting a .924 save percentage with a 2.35 goals against average. With starter Antti Raanta down, he has made 21 consecutive starts, the third-longest streak in franchise history.

Kuemper was named as the NHL’s third star of the week last week for helping the Coyotes to a 2-0-1 record behind a .979 save percentage.

For Arizona to earn a Wild Card berth, it will need to beat the Golden Knights on Thursday and the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday without shootouts necessary. In addition, the Colorado Avalanche must lose both of its remaining games in regulation: against Winnipeg at home Thursday and at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

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