The Edmonton Oilers are going to be without their top defenceman in their most important game of the year.
Darnell Nurse has been suspended for one game for his game five head butt on LA Kings forward Philip Danault.
The incident happened late in the second period of the Oilers’ game five loss. Mike Smith swallowed up a shot while the Oilers were on the penalty kill and as he did, Nurse turned unprovoked and drove the top of his helmet into the head of Danault.
“It is important to note this is not an accidental collision that occurs when two players are moving at speed and heads collide while attempting to throw a legal bodycheck,” the NHL’s department of player safety said in their ruling. “This is an unacceptable headbutt delivered with the top of a helmet to an opponent’s face with some force.”
— zach laing (@zjlaing) May 11, 2022
Meanwhile, the department also issued some more punishment to the Oilers by fining Zack Kassian $5,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for cross-checking Sean Durzi late in the second.
Nurse’s impending absence is a huge loss for the Oilers. When adjusting for score and venue at 5×5, he leads all Oilers defencemen in minutes, ranks second in shot attempt share (54.85%), tied for first in goals for percentage with his defensive partner Cody Ceci (67.45%) and ranks first in expected goal share (58.28%).
The Oilers will likely look to bring in Kris Russell onto the third pairing, and the Oilers could look at running pairings like:
Kulak – Ceci
Keith – Bouchard
Russell – Barrie
Nonetheless, the play by Nurse was a boneheaded mistake in the most crucial of times and is, quite frankly, inexcusable.