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White Joining the Dark Side

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Game Preview | Wilson | Mitchell | Hagman | Finger & White

Jeff Finger says he will continue to talk to Ian White. It just won’t be easy.

“I used to like the guy and then he went to the dark side,” laughed Finger.

The dark side, for a defenceman is forward, a position White played in Carolina Sunday after being sat out for the Leafs first 11 games.

The 24-year-old White scored a goal in his second shift, played 12 minutes and finished plus one. He is back in the lineup tonight as the Leafs play the Carolina Hurricanes at Air Canada Centre.

“I’m rewarding him for a very good game and effort the other night,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “It wouldn’t be very fair for me to haul him off after he got the job done and he played on the back end (after Jeff Finger was cut). When you play well you deserve another chance.”

The Winnipeg native hadn’t played up since minor hockey. “We would rotate through the positions. The funny thing was I had been practicing at D the last three weeks.”

White will be back in the lineup, probably on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers and Dominic Moore.

Expect the return of go-to goalies Vesa Toskala and Cam Ward to the nets tonight as the Leafs seek to better their 5-4-3 record. Carolina comes in with a 6-3-2 thanks in part to Sunday’s 6-4 over the Maple Leafs.

Defencemen sometimes regard forwards like lap dogs: all energy and enthusiasm, no understanding. Finger puts it succinctly.

“You have to think more when you play defence. The forward just has to skate.”
Not surprisingly, White is finding some nuance in the debate.

“I’m torn,” he said. “I think there’s a bit more thinking playing defence. Playing forward is a little more physically demanding. You can make it as tough as you want, hit guys, dump it in. When you play defence, you spend more time waiting for something to happen.”

A regular over the last two seasons, White has been caught in the numbers. The Leafs are overstocked with nine defencemen. There are, occasionally, openings at forward and with his career suddenly hitting a brick wall after 170 NHL games, White isn’t picky.

“Not playing was definitely discouraging but it’s part of our business. You have to be strong mentally to succeed.

“Asking Whitey to play up front isn’t a bad idea,” said Wilson. “He can skate. He’s got good offensive instincts and he will do anything to get in the lineup. He’s done a good job. He’s stayed in good shape. It’s tough to go a month without playing.”

As for the future…

“I’m taking it a day at a time,” White said.  You’ve just got to be ready.”

Wilson said the schedule, the Leafs had defeated the New York Rangers 22 hours before playing in Carolina, contributed to the Leafs dropping the game in a hail of penalties. “Those are penalties you take when you are tired,” he said. “We’ll be better tonight.”

The Leafs will re-insert Anton Stralman into the lineup. Stralman has missed two of the Leafs last three games. Jonas Frogren, less mobile than Stralman, will not dress. Nor will Carlo Colaiacovo.
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