SUN Hockey Pool

Never say never again

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

It's not easy being told every morning that your team isn't very good and you don't have a shot at the playoffs and all you ever do is lose and that you should just admit that the season is over.

Especially when your team isn't very good and you don't have a shot at the playoffs and all you ever do is lose and you should probably just admit that your season is over.

But through all of the losses, all of the injuries, all the failed attempts to crack .500, and all the other body blows that have been raining down on them this season, the Edmonton Oilers, to their credit, won't say die.

They were fiery and physical and outshot the Dallas Stars badly in a 4-1 loss, then ran Calgary out of the rink in a 5-0 win Monday. For a team with one foot in the grave, they're showing a lot of life lately.

"It's tough to play like that every night but it's the style we have to play to be successful," said captain Ethan Moreau, who's been leading the physical and emotional revival.

"We're learning what kind of hockey we need to play as a team. We tried a number of different approaches, but just being gritty and physical and playing for each other, especially for the young guys, is contagious.

"I think it's served us well over the last two games, they were two of our best outings of the year. It's a mindset that we need from here on out."

Most people think the surge is too little, too late, that they already sealed their fate in the first 55 games of the season. Or they'll point out that we've seen this movie before, a couple of gritty games followed by a couple of inexplicable chute pulls.

And they might be right.

The Oilers have looked dead. They've been pronounced dead.

But just when it seems like the bottom is falling out of their team for good, they score twice in the last 83 seconds to salvage a road trip, or light up the Flames after Shawn Horcoff books a flight to Cleveland for shoulder surgery.

"After Dallas we could have easily felt sorry for ourselves and gone into a slump," said Moreau. "It's not easy to pick yourself up (when things are at their worst), but that's how most athletes are defined and most teams are defined - how you respond."

Lose that Calgary game, and things would be pretty ugly today. They'd be on a three-game losing streak, eight or 10 points back of eighth, with a bunch of their top players on the shelf and all of their fans showing up at the rink in a foul mood.

Now they're one Calgary-like effort away from changing the mood completely.

"It sure makes the next day more energetic," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "You need some positive reinforcement to keep the energy up within the group.

"There's a real tendency (among fans and media) to try and draw a conclusion and where you're going and how you're going to get there after each and every game. You have to apply a work ethic and perseverance and try not to get too distracted by all the conclusions that everybody is jumping to."

Staios says keeping a level head and a positive outlook is the only way to survive in a market that lives and dies 60 minutes at a time.

"It's all in the way you handle the wins, and, more importantly, the losses," he said, adding the veterans need to keep everyone ready.

"It's a responsibility we take seriously. We don't want anybody dragging their heads, because it's not going to do anybody any good.

"Say we took that loss and we're totally disheartened by it and didn't take any positive energy out of it - the chances of us being able to play the way we did against Calgary probably would have been slim. Every day is a new day. We've done some pretty special things on this team in the past. We're hoping we can do some more."


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