– Red Wings’ newcomer Ian White
was feeling pretty fortunate following Tuesday’s informal practice at Joe Louis Arena.
For the 27-year-old defenseman – who has logged more than 400 NHL games with such partners as Luke Richardson, Hal Gill, Robyn Regehr, and most recently, Niclas Wallin, last season in San Jose – the news that his new blue line partner will be future hall-of-famer Nicklas Lidstrom
was beyond thrilling.
“I’m probably the luckiest guy in the hockey world right now,” White said. “Being a new guy coming in here, and a younger guy too, to be paired up with – more then likely – the best defenseman to ever play, it’s quite an honor.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock said that he plans to pair White and Lidstrom together on the team’s first defensive pairing once the exhibition games begin next week. Whether or not the two remain together, only time will tell, but Babcock likes the 5-foot-10 White for a number of intangibles.
“He can shoot the puck,” Babcock said. “He’s a competitive guy. He’s not big. You don’t say that he’s a world-class skater. He’s just a hockey player. He knows how to play and he’s competitive.
“We’ve got to get him to be very good with the stick in the D zone and not as confrontational. And what I mean by that is, the smaller you are and the more you can play with your stick and the less you can play with your body, the better off you are. That will be one of our focal points. When just move the puck and get it going. And if you get in trouble pass it to Nick.”
Regardless, this season will be quite a change, said White, who signed a two-year contract with the Wings worth $2.875 million in July.
“He’s got a lot to teach me,” said White, of his first Wings partner. “It will be a great experience and I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, it’s only the first day in camp, but if we get off to the right start and work well together, then hopefully it will be the start of a good partnership.”
As always with linemates or defensive partners, chemistry plays a big part in the development of that particular unit. For the left-handed shooting Lidstrom, who is as easy-going as they come, working with White, who is a right-handed shot, could be an ideal situation, especially on the power-play.
“I think it’s very important, especially if you play your side,” Lidstrom said. “It’s easier going D-to-D, it’s easier when you get the puck to look up the ice to make plays. And on the power-play, you have a threat for a one-timer if you’re switching sides where you can make those passes at the blue line a lot quicker, so it makes it easier when you have a lefty and a rightie out there.”
Lidstrom learned from Babcock earlier this week of the new pairing, which the seven-time Norris Trophy winner called “exciting”.
“Some times you click right away,” he said. “You have to get a feel of one another; how he’s reading plays. Whether he likes to step-up at the blue line, and the same way I like to play at the blue line, or if we’re switching off in our own zone. Just little things like that. Then after awhile, you’re not even thinking about it. It just takes a little while to get used to how he plays and how he reacts on the ice.”
But Lidstrom said he’s seen enough of White over the years to know that it will only take a little time for the two to pick-up on each other’s tendencies on the ice.
“From playing against him, he’s a competitive guy,” Lidstrom said. “He works hard out there. He’s able to join the rush and get out there in the play. He’s a good puck-mover, and I think he’s a good skater, so it’s just a matter of finding the chemistry early on, and getting a feel of one another.”
For White, being paired with Lidstrom is already a dream-come-true, and they haven’t skated a single shift together yet.
“He makes it pretty easy to play, so you just try not to screw up and try to make some plays,” White said. “From everything I’ve heard about him, everything is true. He’s a great leader; one of the all-time greats in the game. He’s just a very amiable person and a very likeable guy. He treats everyone with the utmost respect and is a real good influence.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill