During the regular season, Wayne Gretzky suffered an injury that

cost him the chance at another NHL scoring title and perhaps the league's most valuable player award as well.

Gretzky says it's the best thing that ever happened to him and the Edmonton Oilers."I felt positive about the injury because it gave me a break from hockey which I hadn't had in a long time, and it was extremely good for the team because people got confidence playing without me," Gretzky said.

That has seemed to be apparent in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where the Oilers are playing some of their best hockey in recent years. On Tuesday night, they whipped the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in the opener of their Campbell Conference final with Gretzky's three assists leading the way.

With his three assists Tuesday night, Gretzky improved his career playoff points record to 229. He has 20 points so far this year on five goals and 15 assists.

The same might be said of the entire Oiler team. Jari Kurri, Gretzky's linemate who scored one of their goals Tuesday night, said earlier that the Oilers are playing the best hockey he's ever seen.

That includes three Stanley Cups in the last four years.

The Oilers were especially impressive in their last series, a four-game sweep in the Smythe final against Calgary, the NHL's overall points champion.

On Tuesday night, they were just as impressive in manhandling a strong Detroit team that won the Norris Division title.