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Nurse close to return, eyes strong finish

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Getty Images.

It’s been a season of very little rest for Darnell Nurse, and now that rest comes in an unwelcome form. Nurse has been shelved with a knee injury since a two-point night on February 13.

Fortunately for Nurse, the prognosis is good. The Oilers top defensive prospect was in Edmonton on Saturday to get his injury looked at by the Oilers medical staff.

“I got hit a little awkwardly a couple weeks back,” Nurse said. “The Oilers medical staff just wanted me to come in and make sure everything was going as planned. I’ve had a couple of MRIs. I’m looking forward to getting back to (Sault Ste. Marie) tomorrow and hopefully jump right back on the ice and just play as soon as possible.”

No one wants to be injured, and a captain never wants to be away from his team. But it might be to take a breath and recharge for what lies ahead.

Nurse began the season in Edmonton, playing two games for the Oilers. Then it was back to the Greyhounds for the grind of the OHL season. That was interrupted by the World Junior Championship, in which Nurse and Canada took home gold. Nurse was named Canada’s Player of the Game in that final showdown with Russia. A career achievement and a whirlwind 10-day tournament in the books, Nurse set his sights on returning to his ‘Hounds for the remainder of the season.

It hasn’t stopped for Nurse, and that’s the fun part.

“The year has gone great,” he said. “From the start of the year here to going back to play in Sault Ste. Marie, then World Juniors, everything has gone really fast. There’s been a lot of hockey played and not much of a rest. It’s been a lot of fun for me. To win that gold medal was a lot of fun for me for sure and a great experience to really bring back to the Soo for the rest of this year and hopefully make it a long playoff run.”

The not-so-fun part for Nurse was his injury, but it sounds like that’s coming to an end.

Photo by Getty Images.

“Hopefully I’ll jump right back on the ice. Nothing is really serious with it, so it’s good,” Nurse said.

In 33 games for the Greyhounds this season, Nurse is +12 with nine goals, 22 assists and 56 penalty minutes. The physical blueliner is salivating at the potential of a playoff battle with the 2015 NHL Draft's top prospect, Connor McDavid, and his Erie Otters. Erie is 10 points behind the Greyhounds in the OHL’s Western Conference standings.

“We have the team to do it for sure,” Nurse said of their OHL title chances. “I’m real confident in the team we have. We’ve added a lot of pieces to the foundation that we started the year with so it’s going to be a lot of fun to hopefully get the chance to play them in a series.”

After making his NHL debut and winning gold for his home country at World Juniors, Nurse has one more thing to check off his to-do list this season once he returns to the ice. He hopes to lead the Greyhounds on a deep playoff run with the chance at capturing a Memorial Cup.

“This is my last year in junior so I want to go out with a bang and we definitely have the right pieces and we’re capable of doing everything we can to make it to the final tournament at the end of the year,” Nurse said. “I think it’s going to come down to us working hard every day but we’re definitely capable of it and I’m going to try and be a big piece of that.”

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