Oilers-Stars Game 4 Notebook: Roster shakeup, curt Nurse, Dallas even-keel

Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers battles for the puck against Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars in Game Three of the Western Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 27, 2024, in Edmonton. (Getty Images)

EDMONTON — Three players in, three players out. As Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet said about a different game in Round 2, Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch is “swinging the bat” before Wednesday night’s crucial Game 4 versus the Dallas Stars.

Judging by the fact that defenceman Vincent Desharnais, winger Warren Foegele and centre Sam Carrick each skated long after the morning practice, it’s a safe bet that young D-man Philip Broberg, veteran winger Corey Perry and centre Ryan McLeod will all draw into the Oilers lineup for Game 4.

Knoblauch wouldn’t confirm or deny the moves, and Dallas head coach Pete DeBoer couldn’t recall ever making three healthy scratches in the same playoff game.

Broberg has a grand total of 65:13 in playoff ice time, accrued over the past three springs. He’ll likely play his natural left side next to Cody Ceci, with Brett Kulak switching to the right side with Darnell Nurse.

“I played some games last year (nine games, 62 minutes of TOI), and I had a game the year before that,” said the six-foot-four 22-year-old. “I’ve played before, so that’s a confidence boost as well.”

Perry will bring more greasiness to the game, albeit at a slower pace than Foegele, while McLeod’s foot speed is needed.

Little Talk From Doc

Nurse took it on the chin from coast to coast on the off day between Games 3 and 4, from both media and fans. TV, print media, fan blogs — everyone took their shots at a $9.25-million defenceman who just isn’t getting it done often enough in these playoffs.

On the morning of Game 4, Nurse was not playing ball with any of those groups.

“Your thoughts on Philip Broberg … the time he’s put in, the work he’s done here?” Nurse was asked.

[brightcove videoID=6353884069112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“Really good player. He’s ready,” answered Nurse, curtly.

Question: “You have confidence that he can … ”

Nurse. “One hundred percent. He’s a really good player.”

Question: “What do you think makes him ready?”

Nurse: “Skates, physical, makes plays.”

The Oilers defenceman completed his scrum with two more answers totaling 10 words, and walked out with a “Thanks, guys.” Clearly, he’s in that mental bunker that players often go to when it seems like the rest of the world has lost faith in their game.

Hey, give Nurse and the Oilers credit. Where many NHL teams would offer up only fourth-liners and third-pairing defencemen on a day like this, the starting goalie (Stuart Skinner), the captain (Connor McDavid), the embattled veteran (Nurse) and the relatively new rookie (Philip Broberg) all conducted media interviews before Game 4.

[brightcove videoID=6353880880112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

McDavid took the opportunity to defend his long-time teammate.

“Nursey, he’s a big piece of our room. Plus/minus, whatever. It’s a funny stat,” McDavid said of Nurse’s playoffs-worst minus-12 this spring. “He gives us everything he’s got, he always has for a long time. I expect him to have a great one tonight.”

Knoblauch will insert Perry back in, looking for the gamesmanship and greasy offence that he has provided for some 1,300 games. He has to play with linemates who can cycle a puck, so we suspect he’ll line up with Adam Henrique at centre and Connor Brown, who has been pretty good in this series.

That makes a fourth line of McLeod between Matias Janmark and Derek Ryan, three trusty penalty killers who will play more if Edmonton gets the lead, and less if the Oilers are chasing the game.

Stars Stand Relatively Pat

By the time the Stars skated Wednesday morning, the three likely lineup changes for the Oilers were already posted on the white board in Dallas’ dressing room.

Teams certainly watch every move the opposition makes.

DeBoer said the only lineup change he’ll make for Game 4 will see Craig Smith replaced on the fourth line by Radek Faksa.

When asked if he’d like anything else done differently, he chuckled.

“Yeah, start on time, I think that’s probably the obvious one,” said DeBoer, whose club was lucky to escape the first-period barrage thrown at his club the first period of Game 3 down just 2-0.

The big lineup change for the Stars came in Game 3 when Roope Hintz returned from injury to kickstart a top line that saw Jason Robertson snap a 10-game goalless streak with a hat trick, including the winner.

Despite the Stars’ depth, perhaps no skater means more to the team than the soft-spoken Finn.

“I loved how we weathered that storm while he was out of the lineup (for four games) and obviously him coming back to the lineup changes things for us,” said DeBoer, who is adding Faksa to add more energy to a group that has gone through the rigors of 16 games.   

[brightcove videoID=6353885448112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“When you have depth and you get to this point of the year … you want to put in fresh legs at different points.”

As far as weathering storms go, Matt Duchene said his team is experienced enough to know the opening onslaught from Edmonton required a response. 

“Pete doesn’t have to come into the room and break the news to us,” said a smiling Duchene, whose club countered by scoring three goals in under four minutes to open the second period of a 5-3 win.

“We’re a real even-keel group. We know when we’re not good.

“We gave ourselves a little kick in the ass after the first period, and we needed it.”

How They Line Up



















When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.