Darnell Nurse injury update 61224 Tonight bug

EDMONTON -- Darnell Nurse is expected to play for the Edmonton Oilers against the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN).

The Oilers defenseman did not practice Wednesday after he sustained an undisclosed injury in Game 2, a 4-1 loss, when hit in the corner by Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues at 8:16 of the first period. Nurse did not play the rest of the period and took one short shift in the second and two in the third.

Edmonton forward Evander Kane’s status is uncertain, but forward Corey Perry is expected to return after being scratched for Game 2, 

“Corey is quite likely to come back in the lineup,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Darnell, we haven’t considered much of not having him for the next game.”

Nurse played a total of 4:20 in Game 2; he was averaging 21:30 of ice time through Edmonton’s first 19 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“With the medical treatment that he got in Game 2, he was able to play a little bit at the end of the game,” Knoblauch said. “With the time off and everything that we need to do, I have no issues he’ll be ready to play.”

Nurse, 29, was selected by the Oilers in the first round (No. 7) of the 2013 NHL Draft and is in his ninth full season. He is the second-longest tenured player behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was selected No. 1 in 2011 and is in his 13th season.

“He’s a huge presence for us, both in the room and on the ice,” Edmonton defenseman Mattias Ekholm said of Nurse. “It’s one of those things, I feel like sometimes defensemen can really get overlooked because they’re just there, they’re doing their thing, they’re steady in every game and when you remove them -- even in practice today -- you notice it right away.

“That says a lot of about him, what kind of guy he is, how he conducts himself; he’s super professional, he goes out there and does every drill first. He sets the tone and he’s a huge piece of our team.”

Nurse has three assists and is minus-15 in 20 games this postseason. He’s come under some scrutiny for his play during Edmonton’s run to the Cup Final, but he is still viewed as valuable on the blue line.

“You have to look at what kind of role he’s getting too,” Ekholm said. “If you look at me and [Evan] Bouchard, we usually get on the ice in the offensive zone, it’s usually with Connor [McDavid] or Leon [Draisaitl], you can call it the ‘cookie minutes’ or whatever, but we obviously get a different starting point from our shift.

“If you look at Darnell, he’s starting in the [defensive] zone a lot, he’s usually playing against one of the top lines of the other team, and it’s hard minutes. I know people get on him or whatever, give him criticism, but we know in here he’s always up to the task. He responds to every situation.”

Nurse had been paired with defenseman Cody Ceci for most of the regular season, but the two were split up in the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars, which the Oilers won in six games. They were reunited for Game 1 of the Cup Final but were on the ice for the first two goals in a 3-0 loss to the Panthers.

Ceci was a healthy scratch in Game 2 for the first time in three seasons with Edmonton, and Nurse was paired with Vincent Desharnais. If Nurse is unable to play Thursday, Ceci would likely draw back into the lineup.

“Obviously he’s a big loss if he can’t go, just his presence -- he’s very vocal in the locker room and is not scared to call you out if needed,” Desharnais said. “His play, he’s going to eat pucks, he’s going to skate, he skates very well, he’s going to be physical as well. He does a lot of good things that have definitely helped us get here.

“If he can’t go tomorrow, then we’re going to need guys to step up. I’m going to have to step up my game a little bit more, and all of the other five [defensemen] are going to have to step up their game a little bit more.”

At forward, Perry is expected to return even if Kane, who is battling through a sports hernia, is able to play. Perry had one shot on goal in 8:45 of ice time in Game 1 on a line with left wing Warren Foegele and center Ryan McLeod. Perry skated with Foegele and center Sam Carrick at practice Wednesday.

A veteran of 210 NHL playoff games and participating in his fifth Cup Final with his fifth different team (Anaheim Ducks, 2007; Dallas Stars, 2020; Montreal Canadiens, 2021; Tampa Bay Lightning, 2022), Perry is a fit in this series against Florida, which has been physical through the first two games.

“It’s been talked about immensely how they play, and good for them,” Perry said. “But we have our own way of playing and if we find that, back to what we did in Game 1, getting in the forecheck and being hard and quick on pucks and moving pucks and playing our game, we’re going to get our chances.”

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