Smith in, Kuemper out, but what about Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell and Philip Broberg?

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Playoff Game Day 3.2: Oilers vs Avs

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Mike Smith will start in net for the Oilers of Edmonton, goalie Darcy Kuemper is out and Pavel Francouz in for the Avs of Colorado, that much we know.

But what will the Edmonton Oilers do with their defensive group? Darnell Nurse was missing from practice and the injured player is coming off his worst game of the playoffs.

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug gave a blow-by-blow on Twitter on how things shook out at practice this morning in Denver, trying to read the tea leaves of what the Oilers might do with their line-up tonight:

“Keeping an eye on Broberg this morning who is taking morning skate with main group. 11-7 could be an option, his skating of him could be the add they’re looking for ahead of Russell. Looks like no Draisaitl for morning skate. Nurse missing as well.

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“No Nurse so D pairings a mess but looked largely the same. Malone in white, likely place holding for 29. (Oilers asst, coach Dave Manson had two chats with Russell at beginning and end of skate. We read into everything. Also, Kulak took a couple runs through with Ceci. We won’t get answers this morning I’m sure… Broberg and Russell out late after skate working fairly hard. Most others have left. Indicates they aren’t playing.”

After practice, coach Jay Woodcroft said Russell was an option for the Oilers tonight.

On Oilers Now, host Bob Stauffer said he expected Nurse and Draisaitl would play, that the Oilers would go with 12 forwards and six d-men again, and that Broberg and Russell would likely not play.

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my take

1. Darnell Nurse struggled mightily to contain the speed and skill of the top Avs players, namely Nathan Mackinnon. Nurse clearly isn’t close to bringing his “A” game just now, largely due to injury that keeps him from being able to explode in his skating. He can get around smoothly on the ice, just don’t ask him to accelerate fast into a check or hit or rush. What will the Oilers do to counteract his deficiency? For his part, Nurse has got to make better reads. If he’s not going to be the same ferocious force charging in to battle on the boards, he’s got to do a much better job covering off passes from the corner and taking the danger man in the slot. Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft could also give Nurse a break by giving him less difficult minutes, not pitting him so much against the Nathan Makinnons of the NHL. Perhaps Brett Kulak could move up to pair with the stalwart and highly effective Cody Ceci on the top pairing. Nurse could. pair with Tyson Barrie, who is playing the best two-way hockey of his career just now.

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2. Connor McDavid was stellar on the attack in the first game against the Avs, but weak on defense. After playing the best defensive hockey of his career for two weeks against Los Angeles and Calgary, he suddenly let too many passes through into the slot. I expect he’ll be much better.

3. In fact, I expect the entire Oilers team will rededicate itself to defense, as it had to do in both the Los Angeles and Calgary series after it had terrible games in its own zone. The Oilers have shown this playoffs that when everyone is focused and intense, the team can consistently play strong, fundamental, shut-down defensive hockey. That’s what is needed tonight to beat the Avs, that and some solid goaltending from Mike Smith, who has come through repeatedly for the Oilers in these playoffs.

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4. Against the Avs in Game 1, the Oilers gave up 24 Grade A shots (which go in an average of 25 per cent of the time), with a subset of 12 5-alarm shots (which go in about 33 per cent of the time). the time). That works out to an expected goals of seven for the Avs, which is what they got, save for their empty-net goal. The Oil’s expected goals were six, as they had 20 Grade A shots and a subset of 15 5-alarm shots. The score reflected the flow of play in this game, but I always felt the Avs were going to win the game, that when they needed to do so, they could reach one level higher than the Oilers. Let us see if the Oilers can raise their level of play tonight, starting and ending with their defensive game. They were a nightmare on defense in Game 1. That’s got to change fast or this series will be over fast.

Staples on politics

Plenty of great policies in Alberta to fight drug addiction so why is the political debate so stupid?

Prof. Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health, who the NDP appointed as co-chair of its Opioid Emergency Response Commission in 2017.
Prof. Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, who the NDP appointed as co-chair of its Opioid Emergency Response Commission in 2017. Photo by Ed Kaiser /post media file

At the Cult

McCURDY: Nurse struggling so what might be done?

LEAVINS: Player grades from Game 1 debacle in Denver

McCURDY: The building of the Oilers and the Avalanche

STAPLES: Mike Smith’s career playoff performance

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