Before the ‘Canes face off against the New York Islanders on the road tonight, Ray Whitney will suit up for the thousandth time - quite impressive, for a guy who was never supposed to make it to the NHL.
Bought out once and waived twice, Mr. Wizard seems to have found the right formula in Carolina. His point production has taken off during his time with the ‘Canes and he has been one of the team's most consistent scorers, as he has escaped the lengthy scoring droughts that plague that other franchise star.
Part of that, inevitably, can be chalked up to flying under the radar. Though he is usually one of the more visible players on the ice, he is hardly thought of as one of the league's leaders, even with the statistics he has quietly amassed (306 goals, 815 points.) Despite this, he has only finished in the positive in plus-minus once during his career in Carolina.
Graciously listed at 5'10, what the winger lacks in size he makes up for in personality. He famously cost NBC a good chunk of change when he dropped the f-bomb on national television while lifting the Stanley Cup and sneaks into the camera shot to make funny faces at the camera while his teammates are being interviewed in the pregame, among countless other memorable moments.
Whitney joins some pretty lofty company in the 1000 club. Here are some statistics compiled by the ‘Canes' statistic whizzes:
Whitney will become the fourth player in Carolina franchise history to play his 1,000th NHL game with the team, joining Rod Brind'Amour (Nov. 15, 2002 vs. PHI), Glen Wesley (Jan. 20, 2001 vs. LA) and Brian Propp (March 2, 1994 vs. LA).
Whitney ranks 73rd all-time among 1,000-game players in points-per-game average (.815).
Since the start of 2005-06, when Whitney joined the Hurricanes, the team has gone 164-110-25 (.590) when he is in the lineup.
Players reaching the 1,000-game milestone in 2008-09: Adam Foote, Bret Hedican, Jason Arnott, Todd Marchant, Brian Rolston, Kris Draper, Miroslav Satan, Jason Smith, Chris Pronger, Kirk Maltby, Patrice Brisebois, Sean O'Donnell, Rob Neidermayer, Brad May and Ian Laperriere. Martin Brodeur achieved the milestone earlier this season.
Players likely to achieve the 1,000-game milestone this season: Donald Brashear, Bryan McCabe, Radek Dvorak, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow, Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar and Craig Conroy.
He's also the only remaining active member of the San Jose Sharks' inaugural team.
Congratulations, Mr. Whitney. You've earned it, however unconventionally.
In a no less important subplot, the ‘Canes are seeking their first road win of the season at Nassau Coliseum against the winless Islanders in what will either be a suck-off or either team's coming-out party. ‘Canes fans will get a glimpse of No.1 overall draft pick John Tavares at work and try and put an end to this hemorrhage of penalty minutes that has come with being a bulked-up, more physical team. Half-injured (or half healed, depending on how you want to look at it) minute eaters Staal, Joni Pitkanen and Aaron Ward are reportedly in the line-up.
The big ‘if' of the game will be whether the ‘Canes will try and stoop to meet their opponent's pace after back-to-back tough losses. On the other end of the ice is an equally hungry Islanders team who could make them look rather foolish.