Coyotes Whitney defying Father Time

Edmonton Oilers defencemen Corey Potter and Ryan Whitney try unsuccessfully to stop Phoenix Coyotes...

Edmonton Oilers defencemen Corey Potter and Ryan Whitney try unsuccessfully to stop Phoenix Coyotes forward Ray Whitney from scoring on Oilers net minder Devan Dubnyk in the first period during the Oilers game versus the Coyotes at Rexall Place, in Edmonton, Alberta, on Feb. 25, 2012. (IAN KUCERAK/ QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

Father Time is not even close to catching up to Ray Whitney.

The Phoenix Coyotes centre scored a highlight-reel goal Saturday in a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, showcasing his speed and skill.

The goal gave Whitney 18 on the year and increased his team-leading point-total to 57.

Not bad for a guy pushing 40.

“He’s a really good player, he’s smart and he’s in great condition,” said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. “But the biggest thing about Ray Whitney now is that he still has a passion to play the game. Some players they lose it earlier, Ray is having fun, he likes going out and competing and he’s still a top player in the league. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”

On Saturday, Whitney scored the Coyotes eventual winner, undressing Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney and then slipping the puck underneath goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

“I caught him flat-footed,” said Ray Whitney. “I was coming north, he was going north and that’s not a good combination when you’re both going at each other. He had to put the breaks on.

“I was a little bit fortunate. Dubnyk said afterwards that I was lucky he gave me one there.”

A Fort Saskatchewan product who was passed over in the NHL draft, Whitney continues to defy skeptics by putting together another impressive campaign.

The former Oiler, who once also served as the team’s stick boy, is climbing closer to the 1,000-point plateau.

Whitney needs just 17 points to reach the mark with 19 games left to play this season.

“I plan on getting it, I’m pushing for it,” Whitney said. “If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I just hope there’s no lockout (next year).”

Having started his NHL career with the San Jose Sharks, Whitney is currently taking part in his 20th season.

He’s already match last season’s point total with the Coyotes, who left Edmonton having extended their winning streak to five games.

“It’s not much different than last year,” Whitney said. “Last year I played a month an a half at the start, after I had surgery on my hand and was really struggling shooting the puck and handling the puck. I probably shouldn’t have played the first three or four weeks of the season. But if you look at the numbers from then on, it’s not much different, they’re similar to this year.

“But I stay in shape, I take about four or five days at the end of the year off and then I start training again. I keep it going. If you lose it at my age, it’s certainly not coming back. So I’d rather keep it going so it’ll stay around.”

Whitney, who admits he still enjoys the game, although practices are not as fun as they once were, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He hopes to get a good offer on the free-agent market, but doubts he’ll get the type of contract Ales Hemsky signed Friday with the Oilers.

“I don’t think they give 40-year-olds, $5-million any more,” Whitney said. “That would be great. But I thought it was a good contract for him. I thought (Saturday) you saw more of the Ales Hemsky that you’re going to see for the next couple of years. He was pretty dominant at times and with his injuries behind them, I think that’s more of what you’ll see from him from now on.”

Judging by his production, Whitney shouldn’t have issues finding a suitor next season. He hopes to play for another two or three seasons before having to call it quits.

“As long as the legs are there I’ll continue to play,” he said. “As long as I can contribute. I don’t want to be a burden on anybody. I don’t want my wife and kids to be in the crowd and hear people ask why that old goat hasn’t retired.

“As long as I don’t put them in that situation and put a burden on the team, I’ll continue to play.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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