EDMONTON - PHILADELPHIA — It can’t last.
At least it shouldn’t last.
It shouldn’t even be happening in the first place.
But some way, somehow, the Edmonton Oilers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Don’t ask why or how, because there’s no explaining it. Just consider this: only New Jersey (9-1-0), Chicago (9-1-0), San Jose (8-2-0) and Boston (7-2-1) have been better over the last 10 games than what’s left of the Oilers.
Edmonton is missing too many key players to mention, and a third of the Oilers skaters weren’t even in the NHL last year, but it doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve managed to go 7-3 in their last 10, outscoring their opponents 11-4 in the last three.
Fitting that they just rolled into the city Rocky Balboa made famous, because these guys don’t know when to stay down.
“At this point it’s definitely a pride thing,” said winger Ryan Jones. “There’s a lot of pride and character in this room, and guys aren’t going to go down without a fight.
“We’re showing the character that we still have in the room, guys getting in the way, blocking shots, a couple of big fights.
“Other teams, that might not happen when you’re this far out, so you have to tip your hat to the guys in this room. We’re continuing to play the game that we need to.”
‘Starting to’ is probably more accurate than ‘continuing to,’ but it’s something to build on.
“These games might not seem important to everyone else because of where we are in the standings, but they’re important to us,” said Sam Gagner, coming off a three-point night in Denver.
“We want to be playing the right way so that when we come back here we know how to play Oilers hockey.
“It’s pretty important for us to establish that. We have a good group of guys here, a lot of guys who are going to be here for the future, it’s important for us to establish that right now.
“If we can have a good last 20 games or so, it’s going to pay huge dividends going into next season.”
It can’t last. Maintaining the recent .700 winning percentage is a little too much to ask.
Common sense, and a road trip that still has to pass through Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit and Pittsburgh, tells you things will eventually slow down — maybe sooner than later.
But no matter how many times these Oilers lose down the stretch, whether it’s a little or a lot, they promise it won’t be like last year.
“We know at this point that we’re building the future of the organization,” said Jones. “And if you build a culture that just accepts losing, it’s contagious. But if you continue to bear down and sacrifice, that stuff is contagious, too.
“Whether it’s call-ups or guys fighting for spots next year, they’re going to know exactly what they have to do to make the team because we’re building an identity.
“Struddy (Jason Strudwick) blocked a huge shot at the end of the second (in Colorado), that had to hurt, Mac (Steve MacIntyre) and Planter (Alex Plante) with big fights, those are good things to see.”
They need to keep seeing them, because none of the injured players are coming back. And when a short-handed lineup starts to lose its hunger, you get the 2009-10 Oilers — and nobody wants that.
“We can make the excuse that our top players are out, but when you get wins like this it’s a credit to the guys in the room,” said Andrew Cogliano.
“The plan is to keep it going. This is a long road trip, we play a lot of tough games. It’ll be a good test to see where we are as a team.”