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Stars' Whitney relishes another shot at playoff run

by Steve Hunt

FRISCO, Texas -- Being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is definitely nothing new for Ray Whitney.

Whitney, who is in his 23rd NHL season, has been to the playoffs nine times. Before making the postseason with the Dallas Stars this season, he had appeared in the playoffs two times each with the San Jose Sharks, Carolina Hurricanes and Phoenix Coyotes and once each with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings.

Ray Whitney
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: -1
As the Western Conference First Round series between the Stars and Anaheim Ducks shifts back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS2, PRIME, FS-SW), Whitney discussed the playoff experience.

"It's always a special time of year. You can just see it when you watch the games. You see every shift's got a little something to it and just the overall atmosphere and the crowd," Whitney, 41, said Thursday. "It's an exciting time of the year that I think people at times take for granted. You realize you don't get there every year. Once you're in there, [qualifying] turns out to be the easy part."

Whitney is one of six Stars who have won a Stanley Cup, something he experienced in 2006 with Dallas teammate Erik Cole when each played for Carolina. Having players who know what it takes to raise the Cup is something Stars coach Lindy Ruff values.

"You need guys that win the Cup. [Whitney], [Tyler Seguin], [Sergei Gonchar], guys that have all won it, have been around those Cup battles," Ruff said. "That experience is something you can only get from going through the war."

Whitney is well aware of what is required to not only win a series but the four necessary to hoist the Stanley Cup. His experience is invaluable considering 13 Stars didn't have any previous postseason experience before Game 1 against the Ducks.

Dallas left wing Antoine Roussel is one such playoff newcomer, and he remembers watching Cole and Whitney win the Cup with Carolina.

"Ray was telling us in 2006 they won the Cup when they were down 2-0 against Montreal, and I was watching that series. I was growing up, so those are good memories to see it's doable and to look forward to it," Roussel said. "It's good to have those guys around to share their experience and share their mentality."

That respect is mutual; Whitney has been impressed with how quickly his inexperienced teammates have grasped what the postseason is all about. The veteran forward has also enjoyed seeing his teammates relish every moment of their first taste of the playoffs.

"You watch the last two games and you can see the excitement. When [Cody] Eakin scores and when [Ryan] Garbutt scores, you can see the true excitement not only when they're on the ice but on the bench," Whitney said. "It's a great thing to see guys making that next step, enjoying that and realizing that this is a different level and it's a different level of excitement."

The best-of-7 series is tied at 2-2.

Whitney has played in several memorable playoff series during his career, including the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals series he was part of as a rookie with San Jose. In that series, the eighth-seeded Sharks upset the top-seeded Red Wings in seven games.

He cites Carolina's run to the Cup in 2006 as one of his favorite playoff memories. And when asked if this series between the Ducks and Stars has the potential to rank highly on that list, he said only time will tell.

"That's tough to say," Whitney said. "We're only four games in, and I don't want to say it's the best experience. It's up there. I can't say it's up in the top by any means. Anytime you're down with two games under your belt and get back into it, that's going to rank up there, but I wouldn't say it's anywhere to the top of my list yet."

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