When the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Capital Centre at 7:30 tonight Washington winger Tony White hopes he is still afflicted by a buzzing in the ears.
This has been a long, unhappy sophomore season for White, who scored 25 goals as a rookie, became the cover boy of the Capitals' press guide and has hovered near demotion to the minors while vainly trying to match that first NHL year. But in the last couple of days events have stirred things up.
At the start of Thursday's practice.
White skated around a goal cage and struck his head on a goalie stick lying atop the net. He needed stitches and missed the drill. In the first period of Friday's 7-2 victory over the New York Tangers, White was dumped by defenseman Ron Greschner and whacked his head hard on the ice.
In the second period, White blocked a shot by the Rangers' Carol Vadnais, skated free and scored his 10th goal after Vadnais broke his stick on White's skate with a desperate lunge from behind. Later, White dove to block a slap shot by Dave Maloney and earned a pat on the back from coach Tom McVie. In addition, he kept hearing that buzzing - it was applause from Capital Centre fans.
"They pay their money, it's their privilege to boo," White has said when those same fans hounded him this season. "I'm trying just as hard as last year, but the shots aren't going in. I wish I knew why. I'd change something."
White did not score a goal until the Capitals' 23rd game. He missed six, one with a bruised shoulder and five because he was suspended for throwing his stick at Vancouver's Mike Walton. Taken off a regular line, he received a ticket to Springfield Feb. 5, but was granted a reprieve when Bob Sirois tore ligaments in his shoulder that night.
"People have been on him and the more he tried, the worse things went for him," McVie said. "He hasn't played too much, but he hasn't said a word about it, and whenever he gets on the ice, he tries his hardest. If anything, there's been more effort put into this season than there was last year's 25 goals.
"The guy has never missed a day of practice, never missed an optional. He's given everything he could possibly give. There's nothing worse, though, than a bad year after a pretty good year. You have all those expectations that aren't realized.
Ron Low will be the Washington goalie tonight . . . Ace Bailey was excused from practice yesterday to undergo treatment on his bruised leg, injured when he skated into a goal post Friday . . . The Capitals and Maple Leafs are 2-2 on hte season, with the home team winning each game.