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BLOG: Nurse, Bear growing as defence pair

Oilers defenders Ethan Bear and Darnell Nurse have shared the ice for the majority of the year, gaining comfort in their on-ice partnership

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - It was early in the season - in the first period of the Oilers home opener against the Vancouver Canucks, to be exact - when defenceman Adam Larsson blocked Quinn Hughes' slap shot, causing Darnell Nurse to gasp.

"It was kind of like, 'Oh God, what's going to happen next,'" recalled Nurse.

What happened next was Larsson suffered a fractured right fibula, prompting the beginning of Edmonton's next-man-up mentality. Ethan Bear was subsequently thrust into a top-four role alongside Nurse.

Since then, it's been a suitable on-ice marriage between the veteran and rookie. Bear and Nurse have played 482:04 together in the 2019-20 campaign, a tandem that has remained unchanged for the majority of the year.

"Bearsy stepped in and right off the hop was making great plays, great confident plays," Nurse continued. 

"That was an opportunity for Bearsy to step in and he took full advantage of it. That's the beauty of this game. When you get an opportunity, you want to make the most of it and he has. Now we're a pair that's been together for a while."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 12.07.19

In warmups before games, you can find Bear and Nurse circling the zone, sending cross-ice passes to one another. 

Once the puck has been dropped, the two can be seen skating in sync, banking pucks off boards to one another behind Edmonton's goal-line to spark the breakout. 

Even on the bench, the tandem can be seen talking X's and O's.

"I think we've come a long way, honestly," Bear, who has four goals and five assists in his rookie campaign, said. 

"We understand the way each other plays a lot more now. We're playing better, we're confident with each other and we trust each other."

Nurse feels that understanding, too, taking it a step further to note how they've synchronized given their shared minutes. 

Video: RAW | Mike Smith 12.07.19

"We're getting a second sense for each other and knowing where each other are on the ice. That's big," Nurse, with two goals and 11 assists this season, said. 

"When you play with someone - we've played together since Game 2 - that confidence and that knowledge of where you're going to be continues to grow bigger and bigger. It's been good so far."

Bear has been appreciative of the dialogue with his defence partner. It's caused the first-year to feel right at home in the Oilers dressing room, abolishing any of the timidity that comes with being a rookie.

"We do talk a lot about pretty much everything that happens on the ice," said Bear. 

"We sort things out. That's the way we teach each other. Any little mistake or even a play that worked out good but we could do better, we still talk about that. It just helps our chemistry. I'm not feeling like I'm a rookie that should be paying attention, listening to what they want. 

"I'm just playing."

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