Oilers nurse Darnell raises his game as he bids for the Olympics – .

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Oilers nurse Darnell raises his game as he bids for the Olympics – .


EDMONTON – After averaging 25:38 ice time per game last season, Darnell Nurse was expected to play a little less this year, his head coach Dave Tippett has promised. So why, after just two games, does Nurse lead the entire NHL with an average of over 30 minutes per game?
“I’m working on it,” Tippett pleaded Monday, offering the standard line after just two games for the Edmonton Oilers. “It’s a small sample size! “

These two words – “little one” and “nurse” – have rarely been in the same sentence over the years.

On the one hand, Nurse is six feet four inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. And second, when Nurse made a mistake, she was never small.

Today, however, the 26-year-old is in conversation to be part of the Canadian Olympic team as a left-handed defenseman, a group that includes names like Shea Theodore, Morgan Rielly, Thomas Chabot, Josh Morrissey, Jakob Chychrun. , maybe a Devon Toews, and old folks like Duncan Keith and Mark Giordano.

It’s not an impervious squad for a player like Nurse, whose game has stabilized remarkably over the past two seasons.

Today’s Nurse Darnell thinks faster and is calmer with the puck than yesterday’s Nurse Darnell. He takes fewer chances offensively and does more with the puck when he chooses to go. Making more good decisions on the ice leaves him in a better defensive position than before.

The nurse, whom his teammates call “Doc,” isn’t pursuing the blow like he once did, or pursuing the offense that isn’t there. This old adage, “the game comes to it”, applies more and more often, as you watch Nurse play for more than 28 minutes without ever looking tired.

“I know Seabs (Brent Seabrook) was a good skater,” Keith began, “but I don’t know if I’ve ever played with a guy who’s that big (the nurse) but can skate as well as he can. ‘he can. . And what it also brings is that element of physique and wickedness. I don’t think it can be forgotten, especially with some of the players we have on our squad. “

Ironically, it’s Keith’s place in the Team Canada defensive body that Nurse will be aiming for, as a younger, taller and better nurse who skates tries to find a level comparable to what Keith set for himself when. ‘he was a regular at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

And the nurse takes notes, literally. It’s a practice he started a few years ago, keeping a notebook to track areas where he thought he could improve.

“I’ve watched videos of all of my games before this and had a lot of thoughts on the things I wanted to improve,” Nurse said. “But I couldn’t really pinpoint it. I was like, “Why am I not taking notes, and then I go through those notes every 10 games or so to see if there is a trend or two that I could highlight from. these notes? Then see if this continues until the next 10 games? “

“I watch every shift now that I play in the regular season. “

Nurse is that thoroughbred who may have finally grown up in his body – whose mind catches up to its god-given skills, like a driver learns to master an F-1 car.

There are nights on an NHL rink where only Connor McDavid is a better skater than Nurse, and even more games where there isn’t a tougher, meaner fighter on the ice.

What Nurse is trying to become, however, is more subtle. He wants to be today’s version of a Chris Pronger: a player who can catch you in the defensive zone with his feet, take the puck with his physique, and then make a play using his skills.

All of this requires good decision making and a considerable sense of hockey, which brings us to the areas where Nurse has had her critics.

The Boy Scouts we texted on Monday now see his patience, a marked increase in his decision making, and most agree that he has the physical tools to be an Olympic candidate. But the mental side? He will have to prove himself on this front by the new year.

Tippett, of course, would love to see Nurse in Beijing. Because he knows that the player who returns to Edmonton would be better than the one who went to China.

“I’ve been to two Olympics and a bunch of world championships, you go to these things and you learn. Whether you’re young or old, you learn from the best, ”Tippett said. “I would love to see him be part of this team, just for the knowledge and the confidence it would give him. “

Nurse has heard all the criticisms. But there’s only one thing: he’s harder on himself than any of them.

“My dad (Richard, a former Tiger-Cat from Hamilton) came from a football background, and they all trained hard, especially back then,” Nurse said. “When I take notes, I don’t look for all the positives. I’m looking for more than the negatives.

“This is how we get better. “

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