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Whitney has plenty of room for another Cup ring

Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 6:20 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ray Whitney has the Stanley Cup ring he won with Carolina in 2006 locked inside a safe in his house here in the Valley. He said he takes it out only once a year, but there was that time when the Phoenix Coyotes' forward wore it while in Las Vegas so he could add to all the glitz already on display in America's adult playground.

"Just when I feel like showing off," Whitney said Saturday during his 17-minute talk with the media inside the Coyotes' dressing room at Jobing.com Arena. "I'll take it to Vegas because everything bling works in Vegas. You're not insulting anybody in Vegas; everybody has something on. That's about it though. I don't wear it too often. I feel bigger when I have it on, for some reason."

That has as much to do with the size and weight of the championship ring as it does with how important it is to Whitney.

There is still room in that safe and on his other hand for another trip to Vegas, and Whitney, now 40 years old, doesn't want to blow the opportunity this postseason with the Coyotes because he knows another one may never come along.

Phoenix begins play in the Western Conference Finals on Sunday against Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"The older you get, you get fewer and fewer chances, and that's the one thing I don't know if guys in the middle of their career or the start of their career realize," Whitney said. "It may be a long time before you get back to this spot again, so you've got to be prepared for it."

Whitney has been the Coyotes' picture of preparation all season. Nothing has changed this spring.

He had a resurgent 77-point regular season. While he has only six points in 11 playoff games, they've been important points -- including the overtime-winner in Game 1 against Nashville and an assist on the only goal that mattered in the series-clinching 4-0 win in Game 6 against Chicago.

Whitley also scored the game-tying goal 9:21 into the third period of Game 3 against Chicago, a game Phoenix won in overtime.

"The experiences he's been through, you can hear him every day," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's relaying something, whether it be to teammates, just a situation that arises, things like a break between rounds and how you deal with it. His preparation rubs off on other people, but he's also very open in sharing his experiences to make sure everybody else gets through. His contributions go much further than just on the ice."

Coyotes general manager Don Maloney is so fond of Whitney that he wishes he signed him to longer than just a two-year contract in the summer of 2010. Whitney was 38 years old at the time and also had a two-year offer on the table from Carolina, where he loved playing and had established a home base.

The Coyotes' offer of $6 million was still better, so Whitney took it. He jokes that he did it for his wife.

"I've got a wife that likes to spend it, so … I guess I'm not any different than most guys," Whitney said. "You have to try and make as much as you can while you're still playing."

Maloney said Saturday that he never hesitated to give him the contract even if at the time it looked a bit odd to give a 38-year-old a two-year deal.

"Usually when you get to 36, 37, 38 there is a little hesitation on extending just beyond a year, but studying Ray and looking beyond his game, watching a lot of video, how he played, who he played with, the ability to protect pucks and make plays, competitive level -- I didn't see the risk," Maloney said. "Even the level of contract, it wasn't something we felt we couldn't swing. And, he's been terrific. He's had a terrific year."

Whitney plans on having a few more. He doesn't care that he's 40 years old, nearing what is supposed to be his retirement age.

He admitted that he may very well be Phoenix's version of Mark Recchi, who won the Cup with Boston last season and promptly retired at age 43.

"I don’t think it’s as uncommon anymore to be 40 and play," he said. "I talked to Rex (Recchi) even after he retired and he said he still felt he could play if he wanted, he just decided for family reasons, 'You know what, I had enough, I went out on top.' You can play now if you take care of your body, if you continue to train, as long as you don't lose a step. You can play as long as you want, within reason.

"I've got a couple more at least. After that, we'll see."

First things first, though; Whitney wants to win this season. If he is to do so, he'll have to continue filling a duel role:

He's a key scorer that plays on the Coyotes top line with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, and he also carries an important voice in the dressing room as the only player on the team to own a Stanley Cup ring.

Whitney and Antoine Vermette are the only two Phoenix players in this series that have even reached the Stanley Cup Final.

"He's keeping it like a business-like approach and we make sure we follow that," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan.

Whitney said he hasn't been asked for too much advice and he's not sure how much he's could give, but the one thing he can relay to his teammates is how hard of a series they should expect.

"If you thought the first two rounds were hard, this one is going to be really hard," Whitney said. "Whoever gets past this round, you can guarantee the Final is going to be the toughest challenge you'll have. That's the only real tidbit or piece of advice that I had to offer; it's tough to get here -- but it's tougher to get any further."

He did in 2006, and the tangible reward was a ring he rarely wears but absolutely cherishes.

Oh, there is room in that safe for one more. There's also room on his other hand for his next trip to Las Vegas.

Whitney can also only imagine how much bigger he'd feel then.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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