If you were waiting for good news on the Darnell Nurse mystery injury, you won’t get it. The Edmonton Oilers announced today that the young defender underwent surgery to repair his ankle and will miss up to twelve weeks. The Oilers had placed Nurse on injured reserve on December 3rd, and told the media that he’d be out “long-term”, but were unclear on the specifics of the injury.
Nurse had bounced back after struggling as a rookie last year and was finally showing the promise he had when the Oilers selected him seventh overall in 2013. No longer relied on as the sole shutdown option with Kris Russell, Adam Larsson and Matt Benning added and Oscar Klefbom playing a larger role, Nurse looked like he could be an integral part of an average-at-worst blueline in Edmonton. While his injury doesn’t necesarily doom the Oilers back to their losing ways, the team had dropped four straight (three of them in overtime or a shootout) before winning yesterday thanks to Patrik Laine’s latest snipe.
The team has turned to Dillon Simpson in the meantime, though only for about ten minutes a night. With more minutes put on the top pairings, the Oilers will need Russell to continue his renaissance this season. After a summer filled with rumors, Russell had to wait until October 7th to sign his one-year deal with the club for a discounted $3.1MM. Now playing around 25 minutes a night, the shot-blocking specialist is a key part to the middle section of season for the playoff-hopefuls.
Nurse, who is still on his entry-level deal with the Oilers, will miss another 34 games if his rehab takes the full 12 weeks. He had five points through his first 25 games, after registering just ten all of last season. The Oilers take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night and will look to continue their new win streak. Interestingly the team also announced the assignment of defenseman David Musil to the AHL. The 23-year old had been with the team since last Wednesday, but had yet to dress for a game. As Tom Gazzola of Oilers TV notes, head coach Todd McLellan mentioned this weekend that both Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba are close to a return, which could mean the end for Simpson as well.