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WWYDW(TE): How to manage the blueline while Darnell Nurse is suspended
By Cam Lewis9 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers will be without Darnell Nurse for Game 5 of their second-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Nurse dropped the gloves late in Wednesday’s Game 4 with Vegas defender Nicolas Hague and was given a five-minute fighting major, a 10-minute game misconduct, and a two-minute penalty for instigating. Since he was assessed an instigator in the final five minutes of the game, Nurse was automatically eligible for a one-game suspension and the NHL opted to uphold the decision on Thursday.
The Oilers were in a similar situation during last spring’s first-round series with the L.A. Kings. Nurse headbutted Kings forward Phillip Danault in the second period of Edmonton’s Game 5 loss to L.A. and he was suspended for Game 6. Brett Kulak moved up the lineup to join Cody Ceci on the team’s top defensive pairing and rookie Philip Broberg drew into the lineup and rotated in on the third pairing with Kris Russell and Tyson Barrie. The Oilers wound up winning the game by a score of 4-2 to force Game 7.
What about this time around? How can Jay Woodcroft and Co. navigate not having Nurse in the lineup for a pivotal Game 5 in Vegas?
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Just like last year, the obvious move will be for Brett Kulak to jump up and join Cody Ceci on one of the top defensive pairings while Mattias Ekholm remains alongside Evan Bouchard. But with Kulak playing higher in the lineup, somebody else will need to draw in alongside Vincent Desharnais on Edmonton’s third pairing.
Philip Broberg will very likely be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch last game. Edmonton’s first-round pick from the 2019 draft has appeared in 69 regular-season games in his NHL career and has also suited up for nine playoff games with the Oilers.
The question is whether Jay Woodcroft and the coaching staff opt to maintain the standard 12 forwards, six defenceman lineup that was successful in Game 5 or if they’ll insert a seventh defenceman into the lineup to cycle with the two rookie defenders. Broberg has never played more than 10 minutes in a playoff game while Desharnais has had some difficulty handling heavier minutes.
Both Ryan Murray and Jason Demers have quite a bit of experience playing in big games but they haven’t spent much time with the Oilers this season. Murray played 13 games for the Oilers in the regular season but hasn’t suited up for them since November because of a back injury. Demers spent the entirety of the season in the AHL but was called up in April to play his 700th NHL game.
Some other options from the Bakersfield Condors include the heavy-hitting Markus Niemelainen, smooth-skating Cam Dineen, and shutdown defender Phil Kemp, though none of those players have ever suited up for an NHL playoff game.
What say you, Nation? How should the Oilers navigate Darnell Nurse’s suspension? Should they add a veteran defender to the lineup or just trust Brett Kulak and Philip Broberg to take on a larger role in Game 5?
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