How are they doing it?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

MINNESOTA -- Common sense and logic tell you this isn't possible.

That it shouldn't be happening.

It goes against all reason that a team loses its highest paid defenceman, its first line centre, its captain and its starting goalie, setting a new club record for man games lost to injury, and comes out of it better than than they were when everyone was healthy.

And not just a little better. Waaaaaay better.

ODDS ARE UNBELIEVABLE

Why is a team that couldn't score to save its life when all hands were on deck now averaging five a night, having chased three goalies in the last four games?

How is a team that spent most of the season languishing in 14th place suddenly one of the hottest, most feared teams in the NHL?

"It's just all development of good players," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club brings a 12-3 run into tonight's rematch with the Minnesota Wild. "They're good players and it all came together at once."

Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Kyle Brodziak, Curtis Glencross, Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner came together and changed the face of the team overnight.

The Oilers don't have to play blue-collar, lunch-pail, dump-and-chase, off the glass and out hockey anymore.

Since the kids took over, it's all about speed and skill and a lot of teams are having serious trouble dealing with it.

"You keep waiting, thinking, 'OK, it's going to end at some point,' " said MacTavish. "They're not going to be as productive, or they're going to have a bad game. But they just bring it. And with Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) playing the way that he's playing, he's as good as anybody in the game. He makes a spectacular play every time he's out there."

Would the future of the Oilers still be carrying today's team if Edmonton hadn't been cursed with injuries all year? Or was all that bad luck really the best thing that ever happened to this team?

MacTavish says the cream would have risen to the top no matter what.

"There's no stopping guys who can play like that," he said. "We all know the answer to the question: Do players develop because they get the opportunity or do they create the opportunity? Quite clearly, you create the opportunity. Those guys are all good players, they were going to develop. They were going to make me play them."

Now they're making it hard to play against them.

"It's hard to explain," Kyle Brodziak of the month-long charge. "Everyone over the course of the year has improved quite a bit and right now guys are just really excited."

They vowed not to use the 300-plus man games lost to injury as a reason to accept defeat, and they haven't.

Nobody even talks about the injuries anymore, except to marvel at what a great job they've done overcoming them.

"We weren't going to let anyone get away with using that as a crutch," said Steve Staios. "We can assess things after, in the off-season, about where we were and what we did. But right now the focus is on playing the games, playing hard for one another. That's the only way that I felt we could approach it."

When everyone else left them for dead, the 14th place Oilers huddled up and promised each other the last 20 games of the season wouldn't be a repeat of last season's stretch dive.

KEPT THINGS POSITIVE

"We addressed our situation, and it didn't look very good," said Staios. "We knew we were in a difficult situation. We just kept things positive, kept the energy up."

Now young and old alike are riding that energy.

"Everything that's happened has come from within these walls," said Dustin Penner. "It's rewarding in itself, what we've done, but it's not over yet. We have a lot of work to do, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have a lot of belief in this room, in this team, and we're putting it on the ice right now."


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