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BLOG: Nurse fixated on 'pushing to another level'

"You have to be someone who is accountable in your own zone and able to contribute in the offensive zone. That's how the top defencemen in the league are now," said Darnell Nurse.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Darnell Nurse made it very clear when he arrived at Oilers Training Camp on September 18 - he felt ready to become a key offensive contributor for this club.

"I want to grow my offensive game and become a two-way threat," said Nurse, one day removed from inking a two-year extension in September. "It's a part of my game that I am capable of bringing out more of."

Mission accomplished.

In the 2018-19 season, Darnell Nurse saw improvements in just about every offensive statistic. Career highs in goals (10), assists (31), points (41), powerplay points (9) and shots (196) were complemented with the highest time on ice average in his career (23:49).

Video: RAW | Nurse 04.07.19

"You need to be an all-around defenceman, especially in this league today," said Nurse during his exit interview on Sunday. "You have to be someone who is accountable in your own zone and able to contribute in the offensive zone. That's how the top defencemen in the league are now.

"That's my goal. To continue the work, pushing to another level with my all-around game."

A catalyst for Nurse's growth and development this season may have come as a result of Oscar Klefbom's injury on Dec. 11 against the Colorado Avalanche. Klefbom broke his finger after blocking a shot and was forced to sit out for 20 games.

Nurse answered the call.

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound defenceman logged back-to-back 30-plus minutes following Klefbom's injury - his first games of 30-plus minutes in his career - while also quarterbacking the team's top powerplay unit.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Exit Interviews 04.07.19

Nurse was also tasked with playing against the opposition's top line more frequently, while also shouldering more of the offensive void left behind by his Swedish counterpart. The defenceman's supply was sufficient with his newfound demands.

Yet, even with all of his statistical glory in 18-19, he would trade away his career highs for another shot in the playoffs.

"You have a career year but you could talk to anyone who had a career year this year - we would trade it up to be in the playoffs right now," said Nurse. "The season did not go nearly as we planned or wanted it to go but we're not far off. We know that as a group, we know that as a team. It's a belief we have in that room and it needs to continue.

"You can mope around about it all summer long or we can use it to get better and come back next year and be difference makers."

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