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White eyes a chance to flex his offense

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
 
Todd White was used in a primarily defensive and limited-minutes role in his first game as a Ranger, but he could become a big part of the offensive game plan by the team's next game on Thursday.
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Veteran Todd White saw only 7:46 worth of ice time in his Rangers debut during Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden. However, according to the team’s head coach John Tortorella, White’s role could very well expand when the Rangers hit the road for games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and Boston Bruins on Saturday.

“Two years ago he had some offense in his game when he played with (Ilya) Kovalchuk in Atlanta,” Tortorella said of White, who recorded a career-high 73 points with the Thrashers during the 2008-09 season. “Maybe we will give him a shot at an offensive role. And we are definitely going to look at him as a face-off guy in our end zone, trying to help us there.”

The Rangers won only 40 percent of their face-offs against the Avalanche on Monday, and they have struggled with that part of their game in the early going this season. Even White, a reliable face-off man who won 53.8 percent of his draws a year ago, was 0-for-3 in the face-off circle on Monday.

“It’s been a struggle, and when you are struggling as bad as we have been I think you need to win it as a unit with the wingers pinching in and you try to win it as five men,” said Tortorella. “We’re going to have to make some adjustments during games by talking to one another and sometimes use the whole group to win face-offs. And I think Todd can really help us here.”

White, who had been a healthy scratch the first three games of the season, would be more than happy to fill the substantial void left in the face-off-circle created by Chris Drury’s six-week injury absence. Then again, White is willing to fill whatever role Tortorella lays out for him.

“I just wait for my number to be called,” said White, 35. “Whether it’s being in good position defensively or trying to create something offensively, I just try and do whatever I can to help the team win. As a player you’ve just got to be ready. You don’t know each night when your number is going to be called, but you have to be ready to go.”

On Monday, White played right wing alongside Erik Christensen, with Derek Boogaard most often on their left flank. He also received nearly three minutes of power-play time centering Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko, and played on the penalty kill along with Brandon Prust.

Since the Rangers did not skate on Tuesday -- they had dry-land workouts off ice instead -- Tortorella did not reveal any new line combinations he might be considering to use in Toronto. However, he said that changes to the line combinations should be expected from what was seen on Monday.

“We may try something different, and look at a few different things for the Toronto game,” said Tortorella. “At times we were good, but at other times it’s just not there. So we may just look at some different things, though I am not exactly sure what just yet.”

Tortorella indicated that White and Christensen, who both skated on the fourth line against the Avalanche, would likely fill more prominent offensive roles against the Maple Leafs.

Surely White will be ready to accept whatever challenge the head coach presents to him on Thursday night.
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