Connor McDavid rushes to Darnell Nurse's defense amid string of poor performances in series against Dallas Stars

Edmonton Oilers v Dallas Stars - Game One
Connor McDavid rushes to Darnell Nurse's defense

Connor McDavid rushed to defend teammate Darnell Nurse amid the latter's string of poor performances in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars.

When asked about Nurse's struggles, McDavid interjected "I'll take that" before reporters could direct their question at goalie Stuart Skinner.

The Oilers captain then offered a full-throated defense of the maligned defenseman.

"He's a big piece of our room, +/- whatever I know, it's a funny stat," McDavid said on Wednesday, referencing Nurse's league-worst -12 plus/minus rating this postseason.
"He gives us everything he's got and he always has for a long time. He's a big part of our room and I would expect him to have a great one tonight."

Nurse has faced heavy criticism for his lackluster play, mustering just two assists over 15 playoff games while averaging nearly 20 minutes per contest.

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch also came to the defense of Nurse, arguing his poor plus-minus doesn't tell the full story.

"You look at the stats, I think it's unfair to say, 'That's his game,'" Knoblauch said. "But Darnell can play better."

Knoblauch noted that plus-minus can be misleading, as players sometimes get saddled with minuses outside of their control.

Connor McDavid speaks ahead of Game 4 vs. Dallas Stars

Ahead of a pivotal Game 4 matchup against the Stars, McDavid expressed confidence that his Edmonton Oilers can respond after dropping Game 3.

"Yeah, the group responds well, it's a belief in our room that we can respond in these situations and I have no doubt we'll do the same tonight," McDavid said at Wednesday's media availability.

The Oilers captain knows his team must adjust against Dallas' stout penalty kill. Edmonton has yet to unleash its lethal power play from the previous rounds.

"They're a good kill, you know, they're aggressive, they're good up ice, they make it hard to get in," McDavid analyzed. "When you do get in, it's tough to get set up and get them settled down, so they're a real good kill. But we've got to bear down, we've got to be a factor in the series."

McDavid also highlighted the importance of sound defense against the Stars' dangerous transition game.

"Defending is a mass part of the game, always has been, always will be," he noted. "For us, it felt like we got stunned a lot when we were thinking we were leaving, but they find a way to keep it in or whatever. They seem to keep numbers kind of behind our D-men, you know, when we think we're leaving."

With the series hanging in the balance at 2-1 in favor of Dallas, McDavid made it clear he expects his teammates to elevate their game on both ends of the ice in the crucial Game 4 showdown.

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