There’s a lot of heat coming Darnell Nurse’s way.
Some of it is justified, and some of it is overblown.
Playing through what’s believed to be a core muscle injury likely needing offseason surgery, Nurse has had a relatively strong playoff. He entered the Colorado series with strong underlying numbers in virtually every category at 5×5, including a goals for percentages over 60%.
But against the Avs, he’s been exposed. At 5×5 alone, he’s been on the ice for six goals against and just one for. He’s been burnt wide, up the middle and had a sloppy giveaway resulting in the Avs’ first of four goals last night. Not only that, but he was on the ice for two others, too.
By the end of the night, he played 20:33 in all situations — second to only Duncan Keith.
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“He’s giving us everything he has,” said a brief Jay Woodcroft after the game. “He’s giving us everything he has. He’s a true warrior and as a team, we can be better.”
He’s not wrong. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for Nurse out there right now. He’s laboured and seems to struggle much more with Colorado than Calgary. The games have been different, too.
Calgary is a slower, more tepid team. They don’t play with anywhere near the pace that Colorado does, and the Avs have focused on working over Nurse in these two games.
Nurse needs to step up his game to the best of his abilities. He’s got to dig deep and find a way to work through what’s ailing him as best as he can. But if Woodcroft is right, and this is all Nurse has to offer, then Edmonton needs to adjust.
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The most logical move would be for the Oilers to return to the 11/7 system they ran during parts of the regular season, and the playoffs so far. Woodcroft could bench one of, or both of  Josh Archibald and/or Zack Kassian, while bringing in a speedy defenceman Philip Broberg. He’d be able to better keep up with the speed that Colorado brings to the ice.
The move would allow the Oilers to give Brett Kulak, who has been great in these playoffs, more minutes, while also limiting those of Nurse, who would likey fare better against Colorado’s bottom-six.
DailyFaceoff and The Nation Network’s Frank Seravalli talked about Nurse on Friday’s edition of The Daily Faceoff Show
“What’s odd to me is that it seemed like he was getting better. He had a really rough Game 1 against Calgary as well, and then 2, 3, 4, and 5 to close out the Battle of Alberta, he seemed to be closer to himself. He got in a practice between these rounds, and you’re thinking, ‘This guy’s getting on the ice that’s in an optional situation, maybe he’s getting healthier.’
I wonder if maybe instead of just being dependent on the injury as well, which obviously isn’t going away, the Avs are just so much of a better skating team than Calgary that you can’t really seem to avoid some of what the Avs are making Darnell Nurse do. Minus-3 in that 2:04 sequence for Darnell Nurse, the turnover that started it all for the first goal that ended up in the back of the net. The Oilers compounded their problem with Jay Woodcroft sending out the fourth line for the next shift, Kadri remained out there, and the puck was in the back of their net in a hurry, the rout was on.”
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Nonetheless, Edmonton now has its backs against the wall, so something has to give.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]