Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper to start for 1st time since injury

The Arizona Coyotes, clinging to life in a congested Western Conference playoff race, will welcome back a key component Tuesday.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper will start at home against the Florida Panthers, coach Rick Tocchet said. It will be Kuemper's first game since he suffered a lower-body injury on Dec. 19.

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

Kuemper is 15-8-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season and was a key cog in the Coyotes' impressive start to the season. Arizona has struggled without him, including a five-game losing streak in January. But entering Tuesday, the Coyotes are in the No. 2 wild-card slot in the West, one point ahead of Winnipeg.

Antti Raanta took the share of the workload in Kuemper's absence. He is 14-14-3 this season with a 2.65 GAA and a .909 save percentage.

Arizona hasn't qualified for the postseason since 2012.