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Veteran Whitney producing for Stars after injury

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Thanks to a broken bone in Ray Whitney's right foot, the wing hasn't played a ton of games for the Dallas Stars this season.

It is 16 to be exact, after the injury forced him out for 16 contests, but the veteran does have 13 points for his new club. Since returning on March 12 against the Nashville Predators, he has three goals and seven points in eight games.

"I haven't felt great to be honest," Whitney said. "It's one of those years where it seems you get something every game and you get banged up a little bit. But just being able to play I guess is really all that matters. Aside from that, I've got the same bumps and bruises as everybody else. It'd be nice to play a couple games all the way healthy."

Ray Whitney missed half of the season to date with a broken foot, but his offensive production and leadership has been a boon for the Dallas Stars. (Photo: Michael Martin/NHLI)

Whitney is skating on Dallas' second line alongside Loui Eriksson and Derek Roy. Fellow newcomer Roy, who came to the Stars in an offseason trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Steve Ott, likes what he has seen thus far from his experienced linemate.

"He does all the small, little things, little plays, little passes, chips, whatever, he does everything right, which is a good way to play hockey and he's so easy to play with because he's so smart there on the ice," Roy said. "He skates like a 20-year-old and makes plays like a veteran player. He's a good acquisition for us and we need him down the stretch for sure."

The 40-year-old who ranks fifth among active skaters with 646 assists and sixth with 1,016 career points, takes Roy's words about him skating like a 20-year-old as a compliment, even if he doesn't always agree with it.

"Well, I don't feel like I skate like a 20-year-old. At times, I feel like the legs are there. Other times, I feel like I'm 40," Whitney said. "Like everybody, it depends what night it is. It's a tough schedule. I'm thankful that he said that. Some nights I feel like I can still skate pretty good and other nights I say well, I am 40 out here. But as long as the perception is I'm still moving pretty good, that's all that matters."

Whitney also has skated alongside 2012 All-Star center Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr since returning to the ice, but now that he's been on a line with Roy and Eriksson for the past few weeks, he feels that trio has developed solid synergy on the ice.

"Well, I've played with Loui for a couple weeks now. Derek is kind of new," Whitney said. "They're both obviously good offensive players with good hockey sense. We've had some success offensively. At times we've spent a little bit too much time in our zone, which we're trying to rectify as a team and as a group. Offensively, there's a real understanding of how we play and we all play similar styles. So it's not hard to adjust and go from there."

Dallas signed Whitney last summer to not only help bolster its power play but to also contribute in all offensive situations for the Stars, something he's definitely done, according to coach Glen Gulutzan.

Ray Whitney
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 13
SOG: 31 | +/-: 5
"So dangerous on the ice at all times, it doesn't take him much. He doesn't need much room or space to create something," Gulutzan said. "He's been real good. He's just so dangerous, gives us a calming presence on our power play and even in the game. When he gets the puck, you're always waiting to see what he's going to do with it. That's a special thing at this level for sure."

When the Stars traded Brenden Morrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night, the big question surrounding his departure was who would serve as captain in his absence. Dallas is no hurry to name a replacement for Morrow but Whitney was among the veterans Gulutzan named as players he expects to step up.

"I'm not a guy who's going to sit there and rah-rah you to death. I'm not into that. This isn't my team to lead," Whitney said. "It's a young team. It's their responsibility to take some of that challenge on. So you can't be sitting there and looking for a 40-year-old to guide your team to the next level. You got rid of an older guy (Morrow) who led your team for a long time in order to make room for younger people, so it's their responsibility to take that seriously and take it passionately. If you don't and if they don't, then you're going to have problems with your hockey club."

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