Leafs' Manitoba connection

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

TORONTO -- The two Manitobans on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster came into the National Hockey League season with entirely different expectations, though both men will be key cogs during the playoff push.

Alex Steen, the 22-year-old son of former Winnipeg Jets stalwart Thomas Steen, was coming off an impressive rookie campaign that saw him produce 18 goals and 45 points and touted as a possible linemate for Leafs captain Mats Sundin.

Ian White, the 22-year-old defenceman from Steinbach, was simply trying to earn a spot on the roster after an impressive rookie season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League got him a 12-game audition with the big club that saw him score a goal and record six points.

Steen, a first round pick (24th overall) of the Maple Leafs in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, endured some early-season struggles in 2006-07, but has rounded nicely into form on a unit with Matt Stajan and Jeff O'Neill.

"We got some injuries and we were relying on myself and some of the younger guys to start producing and we did that," Steen said after the Maple Leafs lost 3-0 to the Boston Bruins Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. "With Mats' line being checked by their team, that opens up some room for us to get some goals."

White, meanwhile, finds himself second in scoring among rookie defenceman with two goals and 20 points in 54 games.

For the most part, White finds himself paired with Maple Leafs giant Hal Gill.

"I'm happy with the opportunity I've got and things have been going well so far," said White. "You'd always like to get more. I'd like to have a few more goals. If I get two goals the whole year it's not going to be something to be proud of. Otherwise, I'm happy with the 20 points but I've left a bit of offence out there. But I'm erring more on the side of caution this year, being a young guy in the league. You don't want to think too offensively. With most mistakes up here, they end up capitalizing.

"Hal is the complete opposite of me and that's allowed me to do some more offensive things. You can pretty much put us out there in any situation."

One of the few lowlights for White was suffering a shoulder injury against the Buffalo Sabres that kept him out of the lineup for three games.

"That's the only negative I can think of," said White, a sixth round pick (202nd overall) of the Maple Leafs in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. "It kind of came at a bad time. I felt I was really starting to get in the swing of things. But that happens and fortunately enough I wasn't out too long."

White says the fishbowl atmosphere surrounding Maple Leafs Nation hasn't bothered him one bit.

"I kind of fly under the radar, though if someone wants to talk to me I'll oblige," he said. "It's a positive and a negative. If we're rolling, the fans and the media love us and if we're struggling a little bit then they're all over us.

"Every building we play in has Leafs fans and that's awesome."

Steen, meanwhile, said one of his highlights from the year has been becoming a father for the first time.

"Your life changes when you have a kid," said Steen, who has 11 goals and 26 points in 60 games this season. "A lot of things you thought were kind of important before aren't very important anymore. The main thing is making sure he's happy and healthy. It's been a blast. He's grown so much already and he's starting to laugh now. It's a lot of fun."


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