Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse hasn’t been afraid to drop his gloves throughout his career, but his fourth career big league fight could result in him watching a couple of games from the sidelines.
Tuesday night in Edmonton, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Nurse, 21, went after the Sharks’ Roman Polak. During the fight, Nurse repeatedly delivered punches to Polak’s head, even though the 29-year-old Sharks blueliner was covering his face and very clearly a reluctant participant in the bout:
The result of the fight was a bloodied Polak heading to the dressing room while Nurse took off to the Oilers’ room for an early shower. For his actions, Nurse was also handed an additional minor penalty for roughing, but his punishment might not end there. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Nurse will have a hearing for the hit Thursday.
The league stated Nurse will have his hearing for breaking rule 46.2, which pertains to the aggressor in a fight. Per the rule book: “The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant.” The rule continues to state a player “must be deemed the aggressor” when continuing to throw punches in an attempt to punish and/or injury after a fight has been won.
The entire incident was sparked by a play earlier in the third period when Polak was handed an interference penalty after Oilers winger Matt Hendricks went hard into the boards. He and Polak were skating towards a loose puck when Hendricks tumbled, although it didn’t appear Polak actually made any deliberate contact with Hendricks. Polak pleaded his innocence to the referee almost immediately, while Hendricks was forced out of the game with an injury.
Post-game, San Jose’s Logan Couture tried to explain what had happened to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz. Couture called Nurse’s actions a clear instigator penalty before and said he was “sure” Nurse would be suspended.
“Nurse has the puck, shoots it at [Polak], drops his gloves and jumps him,” Couture told Kurz. “Roman didn’t even have his gloves off. Our guy jumped onto the ice because Roman was coming off. Then [Nurse] starts punching him and Roman couldn’t even defend himself.”
Nurse’s lack of suspension history and that Polak doesn’t seem to have suffered any lasting injury will play into the length of his ban should the DOPS choose to suspend the Oilers blueliner. In 59 games, Nurse has two goals and eight points and is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.
UPDATE: Nurse has been suspended three games for serving as the aggressor in the fight against Polak.
In the suspension video released by the league, Department of Player Safety director Patrick Burke said Nurse delivered "a series of punches on the unsuspecting player." Burke said Nurse's actions were "a gross violation of Rule 46.2, serving as the aggressor of an altercation." According to the DOPS, Nurse threw and landed in the range of eight punches