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Cleaning up the middle

by Chris Wescott @TheChrisWescott / EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer

You're never going to completely shut out teams from good chances right in front every single night, but the Oilers have made strides into taking away those great and secondary chances from their opponents. It's a work in progress, like the rest of the defensive game, but there's an emphasis on it within the Oilers dressing room.

"That's something big for us," said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. "Not only keeping pucks out of the middle in our d-zone but killing plays before they even develop coming into our zone. That's something we've worked on, pinching off pucks whether they just get over the blueline or right before the blueline. I think we've done a really good job to this point. Obviously, there's always room for improvement and we're always looking to get better but we definitely have a good, solid foundation and we've just got to keep working day to day here."

Nurse is a good example of this part of the game, per Head Coach Todd McLellan. Friday night in Vancouver, McLellan says Nurse did what they want him to do in that he limited a grade-A secondary chance in front of goaltender Cam Talbot.

"The way the game is played now and the approach a lot of teams take is they're throwing pucks to the net from anywhere. Then they play off the pads, they're looking for rebounds and second chances so every team is going to give up perimeter shots and I'm ok with that," said McLellan. "It's what we do in and around the blue paint with the secondary ones. I think about Darnell Nurse last night in Vancouver. He prevented a goal from being scored against us because he had great body position. He had an awareness of where the opponent was and he was still able to sweep the crease clean. We're promoting that as much as we can. It's an area we need to improve on."

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