SAINT PAUL, MN - The Oilers are in Minnesota tonight for a short one-game jaunt to The State of Hockey and if they want to emerge victorious, they're going to have to do it with a depleted blueline.
For starters, the NHL announced this morning that Darnell Nurse has been suspended for three games for being the aggressor in a fight with Roman Polak late in Tuesday's game against the San Jose Sharks.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan addressed the media after an optional morning skate Thursday to talk about the League's decision.
“There’s situations that arise throughout the year where coaching staffs and teams want to stand up for their teammates," McLellan began. "The other night, it was a situation that we want to stand up for teammates but I think Darnell went about it the wrong way and probably took it a little too far. He’s going to pay the price for it now. Three games is what the League decided. We’re not going to argue it. We have to live, and he has to live with those consequences.”
Nurse echoed the thoughts of the coach, saying he needs to control his emotions as a young player who wants to stick up for his teammtes.
“I’m a hard player, I always have been. I like to go out there and stick up for my teammates. It was probably a little overboard. I play hard every night and as I get older I’ll probably try to control my emotions a little better.”
MORE BLUELINERS OUT
The absence of Nurse leaves the Oilers thin on the blueline, but they may be even thinner as another banged up defenceman might not be able to go.
“Our pairings will be determined on other health reports after the skate this morning. We’re getting thin,” said McLellan, adding that Andrej Sekera while banged up himself will play tonight. “There’s another one that we’re concerned about. If that individual can’t go, then Nikitin will play.”
Mark Fayne talked about the blueline situation, saying he feels confident with who ends up in the lineup.
“A few new guys are in the lineup but they’ve played some games over the past few years. With him out, it’s only three games and I think some other guys are coming back. Overall, the fundamentals are the same. Down in Bakersfield they’re teaching the same defence so hopefully it’s a pretty seamless transition,” Fayne stated.
Recalled from AHL Bakersfield on Wednesday, Jordan Oesterle will definitely play tonight. He played very well in his last stint with the Oilers.
“I definitely felt good coming in. It was nice having those games last year to be comfortable with the guys and I definitely felt my game grew over the year,” Oesterle began. “This is a bigger opportunity than it was when I was here last month. I think I just need to play my game, play a strong game and do what I was doing in the American League.”
Oesterle was asked about his improvement this season and he said that he has learned to accept his limitations such as size and play to his strength.
“I need to use my assets to the best of my ability. Last year I was trying to bully guys but I’m not going to do that. I’m realizing that if I need to win battles in the D zone it’s not by pushing guys over, it’s using my skating ability and my speed, getting to pucks first and reading the play.
“Being more confident down in the American League has been helpful.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (26-36-7) at WILD (31-26-10)
TV: 8 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-N, NHL.TV
Season series: The Minnesota Wild have defeated the Edmonton Oilers twice. Mikael Granlund and Matt Dumba each had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win at Rexall Place on Feb. 19, and Ryan Suter scored two goals in a 4-3 win at Xcel Energy Center on Oct. 27. Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid each had a goal and an assist to lead Edmonton.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton practiced without forward Matt Hendricks and defensemen Adam Pardy and Andrej Sekera on Wednesday. Hendricks is questionable after crashing into the boards against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Oilers coach Todd McLellan said Pardy and Sekera are questionable with undisclosed ailments. "We'll call them maintenance days, but they're banged up a bit," McLellan told the Oilers website. Defenseman Darnell Nurse will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning and could be unavailable following a fight with Sharks defenseman Roman Polak on Tuesday. The Oilers recalled defenseman Jordan Oesterle from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League; he has one assist in four NHL games and 23 points in 42 games with Bakersfield this season.
Wild team scope: Minnesota could be without forward Jason Pominville, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Wild coach John Torchetti said he wasn't sure if Pominville will play, but if he does, he would break Kyle Brodziak's Wild record for consecutive games played (232). Pominville tied the record in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. "We'll have to see after the morning skate, even if he does," Torchetti told the Wild website. Torchetti also declined to name a starting goaltender. Devan Dubnyk allowed three goals on 16 shots against the Blues before being pulled for the second time this season. Darcy Kuemper made 18 saves over the final 27:55 but hasn't started since a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 26.