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White's act of courage

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – On the surface it looked like another hockey player doing what’s necessary to help his team win. But what Ian White did Saturday was a true testament to the man and the type of team-player the Red Wings have in their 27-year-old defenseman.

Ian White suffered a fractured right cheekbone on this play when he stopped Jamie Benn's third-period shot last Saturday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
As the Wings’ clung to a one-goal lead in the third period Saturday, and the Dallas Stars pressing near the crease, a scramble ensued in front of the Wings’ net. After goalie Jimmy Howard made an initial save near the left post, the puck squirted out front to Stars forward Jamie Benn, who moved to his right and slapped a shot from close-range toward the open side of the net.

But that’s when White, who was on his knees inside of the crease, reacted instantly, lunging face-first.

“The guy’s got a lot of guts to throw his face like that in front of the puck,” Howard said.

White skated off the ice under his own strength, but did not return to the game. He received several stitches at the arena to close the large gash opened under his right eye, but it wasn’t until he went to the hospital later that evening that he learned the true severity of his injuries.

The puck had also broken his cheekbone.

“Can you imagine if the shot had come from further out?” said forward Danny Cleary, speaking from his own personal experience.

Cleary knows the damage that a puck traveling at a high velocity can do when it hits a man’s face. He had his jaw shattered nearly five years ago when a puck shot by his own teammate, Mikeal Samuelsson, struck him at the Air Canada Centre.

“Listen, it’s a reaction play, you know? When you’re down like that it’s your first reaction,” Cleary said. “A lot of guys would want to do that. Obviously, it takes a lot of courage.

“But he was in a position where his only option was to go that way. I don’t know, looking at him, he saved a goal and got us an extra point or two. It’s good. If you think about it, what if it’s his jaw? I was out for seven weeks. It’s terrible. You don’t want a broken jaw, ever.”

White’s selflessness preserved the Wings’ 3-2 lead at the time, one that they eventually built into a 5-2 victory. But now the Wings are down a defenseman, as White will be out for 1-2 weeks. He did not make the trip to St. Louis Monday afternoon.

White’s injury has resulted in the Wings recalling defenseman Brendan Smith from Grand Rapids. Smith will serve the last of his eight-game NHL suspension on Tuesday, but it’s not known if he’ll continue onto California with the Wings, who have games later this week in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The Wings’ defensive pairings had a different look in practice Monday at Joe Louis Arena prior to the team’s departure for St. Louis.

Without White and Niklas Kronwall at practice, coach Mike Babcock used the following pairings: Nicklas Lidstrom-Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith-Brad Stuart, and Jakub Kindl-Mike Commodore.

“It's an opportunity for Commodore to get in, Kindl and Big E to play more,” said Babcock, who indicted that Kronwall will play against the Blues. “Whitey has been playing real well for us so that part is tough.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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