Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper leaves after taking stick to eye

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper hurt an eye after being struck in the face by a stick late in the first period of the Avalanche’s 7-3 win over Nashville on Saturday.

Coach Jared Bednar said after the victory that Kuemper was well and doing better even though the goalie didn’t return. Kuemper will be further evaluated and has some swelling.

“He got evaluated right away and by the time we went back out, we had information it wasn’t going to be too serious,” Bednar said. “Serious enough for him not be able to come back, but at least he’s able to see and do all that so that made us all feel better I think.”

Play stopped with 56.6 seconds left in the first period against Nashville. Replays showed Predators center Ryan Johansen’s stick apparently poked through Kuemper’s mask. The goalie was able to skate off and headed to the locker room holding a towel to his face.

Johansen watched a replay of the injury while standing at the boards. Bednar said he thought Johansen was only trying to cause distract the goalie and not out to intentionally hurt Kuemper.

Bednar was worried watching his goalie holding his eye. But the coach said there’s a possibility Kuemper plays Monday night in Game 4 when top-seeded Colorado has a chance to sweep Nashville and advance to the semifinals.

“Hopefully he’s doing good and is able to get back in the net,” Bednar said.

The Avalanche led 2-1 with Kuemper making 10 saves when hurt, and he was replaced by Pavel Francouz. Kuemper won both games to start this series and he came into Game 3 with a 1.40 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. Francouz made 18 saves to help Colorado go up 3-0.

Kuemper went 37-12-4 helping Colorado take the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

He becomes the latest goalie injured. Casey DeSmith of Pittsburgh will miss the rest of the postseason after he had core surgery after leaving the second overtime of the Penguins’ Game 1 victory over the New York Rangers. Carolina’s Antti Raanta left a victory over Boston after David Pastrnak struck him in the head with a gloved hand.

Nashville hasn’t had its top goalie Juuse Saros since he hurt his lower left leg in the final week of the regular season.

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press

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