Why athletes decide it’s a good idea while wearing helmets to throw a headbutt, I’ll never understand. It only risks concussions for both temples involved. Darnell Nurse’s plunge at Los Angeles Kings’ defender Phillip Danault was dirty and downright idiotic. It should cost the Edmonton Oilers’ assistant captain multiple playoff games, possibly ending his season.
The NHL Department of Player Safety announced a hearing for Nurse after his beadbutt on Wednesday morning, where a suspension, fine or both will be handed out. The colliding of heads happened during the second period of Game 5 of the first-round Western Conference postseason matchup between the teams. The Kings won on Tuesday night, putting them up 3-2 with Game 6 taking place Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Nurse’s head strike didn’t have the force of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous blunder in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final against Italy, ending his international career with a red card. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Nurse was on the penalty kill when a stoppage in play occurred. Nurse turned around and delivered the headbutt, with he and Danault being tangled for a few seconds before they were separated.
Nurse has been suspended once before by the NHL in 2016 for three games, when he “served as the aggressor” in an altercation with former Shark Roman Polak. Nurse is viewed as an integral member of the Oilers, earning $9.25 million annually as part of an eight-year extension he signed last August. Nurse has played for nearly 19 minutes in every game of the playoffs thus far. Neither player was injured from the headbutt.
The NHL DoPS hasn’t hesitated in past cases when egregious behavior has taken place, like Tom Wilson’s high hit on former Penguin Zach Aston-Reese in the second round of the 2018 playoffs. The department of player safety also handed out an eight-game suspension during the last postseason to Nazem Kadri for a hit to the head of Blues’ defenseman Justin Faulk. Kadri has been a repeat offender, with three postseason suspensions and sixth overall in his professional career.
Nurse’s incoming suspension puts even more pressure on Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the rest of Edmonton’s offense. The Oilers’ top duo combined for 233 points in the regular season. Edmonton needed more than the two of them to do damage in the playoffs and it hasn’t happened consistently through five postseason games, outside of five goals from Evander Kane. A decision is expected to come down on Nurse by the end of Wednesday and he should get at least a two-game suspension for the needlessly aggressive headbutt. I’d be shocked if the NHL allowed him to play in another game of this series.