The Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday that Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse will be suspended one game for head-butting Los Angeles Kings forward Phillip Danault. As a result, Nurse will miss Game 6 of Edmonton’s best-of-seven series against Los Angeles, set to be played Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse has been suspended for one game for Head-butting Los Angeles’ Phillip Danault. https://t.co/w6UdQQKznD
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 11, 2022
Darnell Nurse Suspended
The headbutt came during the second period of game five action Tuesday night in Edmonton. Nurse and Danault were battling for position when Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made a save to stop play. Nurse then turns to Danault, bends his knees, and drives his head up and into Danault’s jaw. It’s worth noting that Nurse was not penalized on the play. Nurse has two points (one goal, one assist) in five games so far in the series. Nurse also leads all Oilers players in ice time, averaging over 21 minutes per game.
What This Means
There is a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, the Oilers will be without their top defenceman for an elimination game. This is the most crucial game of the season to date. In a series where the Oilers are already on the ropes, having just lost two straight games and playing for their playoff lives. The decision by Nurse to throw this headbutt at Danault, essentially unprovoked, baffles the mind. Nurse better lay it all on the line if the Oilers make it to game seven.
Secondly, how was this not called a penalty on the ice? The game happens fast, but there is no other way to read Nurse’s actions than an apparent attempt to injure. Nurse is lucky that he did not break Danault’s jaw. Nurse bends his knees, gets under Danault, drives up with considerable force, and connects with his helmet squarely on Danault’s jaw. Again, I know this is the playoffs, and emotions run high. Officials tend to let the rough stuff go after the whistle (for the most part). But how do you look at this play and not call a penalty?
Finally, we know that games are weighted differently in the playoffs. Nurse receives a one-game suspension here. The Department of Player Safety probably looks at the fact that it is a playoff game, and not only a playoff game, but an elimination game. In the minds of the DoPS, that makes it the equivalent of multiple regular-season games. However, with the malicious nature of the play, a suspension of the rest of the series (two games potentially) is perfectly warranted.