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Oilers need to unleash biggest weapon; teammates feel Nurse’s pain



Oilers need to unleash biggest weapon; teammates feel Nurse’s pain

Stuck in an uncharacteristic drought, Edmonton’s celebrated powerplay unit is running out of time to make an impact

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If there is one thing the Edmonton Oilers have been able to count on over the last four years it’s the power play. No matter what else went on around it, good or bad, the power play remained their North Star.

They need it to shine right now.

Stuck in an uncharacteristic drought — 0-for-7 in the Stanley Cup Final and shut out in eight of the last 11 playoff games — Edmonton’s celebrated five-man unit is running out of time to make an impact.

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But Connor McDavid is convinced they will.

“We need to convert because it’s tough to generate offence at this time of year,” said the Oilers captain. “Our power play has always been there for us, it’s always been a weapon and it needs to be the rest of the series.”

McDavid tips his hat to the Panthers’ penalty killing, which he says is the most aggressive they’ve seen in the post-season.

“They’re challenging the puck, they’re jumping to wherever your next play is going,” he said. “Wherever the puck goes they’re ready to jump on that.

“What do we need to do to be more successful? Just using instinct, we call it playing road hockey. We have to be elite at that. They’re doing a great job of making it tough on us.

“But with that being said the power play has been together for a long time and we’ve been great at what we do. We usually solve penalty kills and I would expect us to figure this one out, too.”

With one goal in two games, Edmonton’s entire offence needs to come to life in a hurry. And head coach Kris Knoblauch says there isn’t any secret formula to increasing their scoring chances. He wants to see them get back to the stuff that nab led them to outshoot Florida 32-18.

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“The simplicity of our game is winning battles, playing faster, using our legs,” he said. “If you take care of those little details it allows us to showcase our skills. If we’re not playing fast and winning battles then nothing else matters because that’s where the games starts and that’s usually where the game finishes.”

Feeling his pain

Everybody is beaten up by the fourth round of the NHL playoffs, but watching veteran defenceman Darnell Nurse trying to play through the pain in Game 2 stuck a nerve on the Edmonton Oilers bench.

Darnell Nurse
SUNRISE, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers is hit by Darnell Nurse #25 of the Edmonton Oilers in Game One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 08, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Nurse left the game in serious discomfort after taking an awkward hit along the end boards and was pretty much done for the night. He tried to push through it, but his body wouldn’t let him.

“He still tried to give it three or four shifts, that’s just who he is and how he conducts himself,” said Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm.

“He was trying in every intermission to get going, get skating, that hopefully he can get one shift one, two shifts in, just to get relief for us (defencemen) who’ve been playing shorthanded.”

They say that’s what makes the 29-year-old defencemen such an effective team leader.

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“There are certain narratives out there about him but I don’t believe a lot of them,” said Ekholm. “He’s a big part of this team and I don’t think we’d be here without him. Sometimes with defencemen, you really notice when they’re not there anymore. We miss him, he’s a huge part of this team.”

McDavid was too wrapped up in the game to focus on the drama going on behind the scenes with Nurse, but he’s not surprised that his longtime friend did everything he could to get back into the action. And still is.

“I definitely knew he was going through whatever he was going through there, but we were also playing a game so I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. But, looking back, he wants to be out there, everybody wants to be out there. It’s special to play at this time of year. He’s as tough as they come and wanted to be out there.”

If Nurse is sitting out a Stanley Cup Final game you know it’s pretty bad (he played just 4:40), but Knoblauch says he hasn’t even considered that Nurse won’t be in the lineup for Game 3.

That’s good news for the rest of the defencemen, who rely on him.

“He’s going to eat pucks, he skates very well, he’s physical. He was my partner, you want to play with him,” said Vincent Desharnais. “He wants to play. He’s a warrior out there. Hopefully he’ll be ready.”

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