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Coach McLellan talks about the growth of Darnell Nurse after his first playoff series

by Ryan Frankson /

Head Coach Todd McLellan had plenty of praise for young defenceman Darnell Nurse following his first career playoff series.

The 22-year-old blueliner played more than 22 minutes in each of the final two games against the San Jose Sharks, while chipping in with an assist, +1 rating and eight shots in the series.

And with workhorse Oscar Klefbom unable to play during the third period of Game 6 due to an illness, Nurse had to step up even more, logging 9:13 in the final frame including 2:18 on the penalty kill.

"You talk about growth, experience and learning quickly on the fly, he handled himself extremely well," McLellan said. "He was big and strong, making poised plays and being physical around the net. All qualities we needed to finish that team off and we're going to need it moving forward."

The learning curve had to be steep for the young Oilers squad in the opening round, with just a handful of players possession prior post-season experience.

"Early in the series, a lot of us were just getting into the groove of playing in the playoffs," Nurse said. "A lot of us haven't played at the pace we were playing at in that series and the atmospheres we were playing in. That's two buildings that bring a great atmosphere every night and you have to try to control your emotions. It was definitely a good, strong finish, but there's a new challenge coming up."

Nurse played 32 career Ontario Hockey League playoff games as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

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