Ian White insists the mustache is just a coincidence.
It is a beauty. A muskrat apparently died on his upper lip.
White will be in the lineup Saturday as the Maple Leafs host the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Hawks are 8-4-5 and in the thick of things in the Western Conference. The Maple Leafs, losers or three of their last four, are a game below .500 at 7-8-4.
The Leafs will honor Wendel Clark by raising a banner bearing his number 17 to the rafters at Air Canada Centre.
White has been wearing the mustache since he got into the lineup, 11 games into the season.
The comparison for Clark, famous for his Fu-Manchu, amused him.
“Right time, right place,” he laughed.
For White, it’s been that way for a while.
He was plugged in at forward when injuries depleted the forward lines early in the year. White, who hadn’t played up front since he was eight years old and rotated around to all five skating positions, has loved it.
Despite missing 11 of the club’s 19 games, White has scored three times and played his way to a plus-5. He has also enjoyed taking on the same forwards who regularly harassed him when he played with his face to the glass.
“You always hear that the small guys can’t play,” he said. “You’ve got to be a little stronger, a little quicker. I pride myself on doing that.”
The experiment shows no signs of abating. It makes perfect sense. A super sub who can fill in up front or on defence is an excellent safeguard. The Leafs, not exactly overburdened with Marlies players who can help, get the benefits of a player who has played in 177 NHL games.
“Going forward it might make more sense to have him play (up) than the back end,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Clark, of course, was a forward converted who moved to the blue line. White has moved merrily between forward and defence, often in the same game.
That said, he might yet see the blue line on Saturday. Carlo Colaiacovo took a shot off the foot in practice Thursday. If the injury is shown to be something worse than a bruise, look for White to go back.
The Leafs meanwhile, will return John Mitchell to the lineup Saturday. The 23-year-old rookie forward missed five games after incurring a shoulder injury.
“I think I’m ready to go,” said Mitchell. “It will be sore but I have a good range of motion.”
Wilson will start Vesa Toskala for the eighth consecutive time.