Oilers’ Darnell Nurse elevates his game as he makes bid for Olympics

EDMONTON — After averaging 25:38 of ice time per game last season, Darnell Nurse was supposed to play a little less this year, his head coach Dave Tippett 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 retort after only two Edmonton Oilers games. “It’s a small sample size!”

Those two words — “small” and “Nurse” — have seldom made it into the same sentence over the years.

For one, Nurse is six-foot-four and 220 pounds. And second, when Nurse used to make a mistake, it was never small.

Today, however, the 26-year-old is in the conversation to make the Canadian Olympic team as a left-shot defenceman, a group that includes names like Shea Theodore, Morgan Rielly, Thomas Chabot, Josh Morrissey, Jakob Chychrun, perhaps a Devon Toews, and oldsters like Duncan Keith and Mark Giordano.

It is not an impermeable group for a player like Nurse, whose game has settled down remarkably over the past couple of seasons.

Today’s Darnell Nurse thinks more quickly and is calmer with the puck than yesterday’s Darnell Nurse. He takes fewer chances offensively and does more with the puck when he chooses to go. Making more of the right decisions all over the ice leaves him in better position defensively than he used to be.

Nurse, who teammates call “Doc,” doesn’t…

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