Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/8/12

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 23: Ray Whitney #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against of the Philadelphia Flyers on January 23, 2010 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Hurricanes 4-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Forty. To some it represents the halfway point in life; the start of the back nine. To Ray Whitney, its just a number. It has no meaning. None, he said with a quick shake of the head that suggested we should move on to the next topic. Age hasnt impacted Whitneys play this season. He led the Coyotes with 77 points during the regular season, and he has six points thus far in the postseason. But Coyotes captain Shane Doan suspects theres a deeper reason Whitney is loathe to talk about his milestone birthday that came a day after the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. I think Whitneys a lot older than 40, Doan said with a grin. Whitney wasnt born in the Dominican Republic, so we have no reason to question his birth certificate. Besides, as we stated earlier, it didnt matter this season as he and a handful of graying players like Nicklas Lidstrom, Martin Brodeur and Teemu Selanne pushed the NHLs age ceiling a little bit higher. I played into my early 30s, and I was probably under contract five more years than I should have been, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said, laughing. I think with Ray, its his mind-set thats the secret. He still has the heart of a 25-year-old player. Hes not the quickest and hes certainly not the biggest, but when it comes down to a puck battle in a tight area, hes as good as anyone because hes just so clever and tenacious. While most of the Coyotes lack deep playoff experience, Mondays 2-1 win over Nashville cemented Whitneys third trip to the conference finals. That would be a teaching point for some veterans, but thats not his style. As the playoffs progress, he seems to talk less and less, slipping quietly into the hallway outside the locker room and doing his best to dodge reporters. Its not that hes uncomfortable in front a camera or a tape recorder. You wont find a better quote or a more analytical mind on the team. Anybody who heard his mesmerizingly informative interview in Chicago regarding the Raffi Torres suspension knows this. Hes really sharp and perceptive because hes seen so many things, Maloney said. The lesson Whitney handed his teammates after Mondays series clinching win was far less nuanced. We really havent accomplished anything yet, he said. Im sure for Doaner and a lot of people in this organization, it means a lot more than it does to me at this point because they havent tasted this. But you have to be careful. You get halfway and you think the first two have been tough, but its only going to get harder. Thats the only thing I can add to the discussion. For proof, Whitney notes that his Carolina Hurricanes needed seven games to win the Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals in 2006. In Game 7 of the conference finals, the Hurricanes rallied with three goals in the third period to beat Buffalo 4-2. In the Cup Finals, Carolina built a 3-1 series lead, only to watch Edmonton tie the series. You think Chicago and Nashville were tough? Whitney said. Just wait. Every series gets progressively harder. Maloney is convinced Whitneys experience will play a greater role as the playoffs roll on. Hes really the perfect leader for this club because hes always been sort of an underdog because of his size, Maloney said. To play and win a Cup and understand the commitment it takes its invaluable to an organization that has had so little success in the playoffs. Win or lose, this is Whitneys last season under contract in Phoenix. Barring a lockout, he would like to keep playing. I dont see Ray being a guy whos going to chase the highest bidder or contract, Maloney said. There are a couple places hell look at that make sense for him, and were certainly one of them. But contracts are a topic Whitney wont broach in detail. Not now -- not when this could be his last chance to chase the Stanley Cup. You want to get as far as you can, he said. Its pretty simple. You realize you dont have too many more cracks at it.
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