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White's hitting stride among NHL's best

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Ian White leads all NHL defensemen with a plus-21 rating heading into Monday's game at Edmonton. (Photo by Getty Images)
EDMONTON, Alberta – It’s been nearly a month since he return from a fractured cheekbone and Ian White feels that he and the Red Wings are on the right course.

“I feel good out there, I feel like I'm making good decisions most of the time,” said White, who leads all NHL defensemen with a plus-21 heading into tonight’s game against the Oilers at Rexall Place.

“Just as a team, I think we're starting to hit our stride here,” he said. “We're playing really good hockey lately, starting to get rewarded as well.”

In the last month, White has a goal, seven assists and is a plus-13 in 12 games since returning to action, and his plus-21 is second-best overall behind Boston’s second-year center Tyler Seguin (+22).

White is a plus-8 in the last five games, including a plus-3 performance in the Wings’ 8-2 drubbing of the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“It's something I definitely take pride in, whenever you're on the ice for more goals for than against you got to be doing something right,” White said. “But I think it's more of a positive to the way the team is playing. They're scoring goals. When you're putting up 7-8 goals a night lots of guys are going to get the rewards from that. That's more of a team stat. Five guys on the ice are getting the same numbers. I'm fortunate enough to get a few extra than some of the other guys but definitely can't take too much stock into that.”

It is a team game and some of White’s success is generated from playing on the Wings’ top defensive pairing and power play unit with Nicklas Lidstrom. However, as Lidstrom points out, White’s savvy tendencies – among other things – has made him a perfect fit for the seven-time Norris Trophy winner.

“I think he just plays solid defensively, and very seldom does he get beat on plays out of the corners or on one-on-ones, and he’s a competitive guy, and that shows, particularly in our own zone where he’s battling hard,” Lidstrom said. “I think we try to complement each other with him being a right-hander and I’m a left-hander, being in the right spots and helping each other out and I think it’s been a good fit so far.”

The 27-year-old White is also second among Wings’ defensemen in takeaways (12) and shots on goal (70), trialing Lidstrom in both categories. But the amazing thing about White’s season, to this point at least, is that he’s only had two minus-games through his first 27 games. And both games came in late October – he was a minus-2 in each – when the Wings as a team were slumping through a 0-5-1 stretch.

A lot of White’s early season success comes from the Wings’ system and the iconic defensive partner that he’s playing besides, defenseman Niklas Kronwall said, but not all of it.

“At some certain extend, absolutely, but at the same time Whitey has been playing great ever since he’s got here, and that’s regardless of who he’s been on the ice with,” Kornwall said. “There are times during the game when he’s not out there with Nick, so he’s been finding ways to make sure that he’s been on the right side of the ice when we score. He’s been doing a great job for us all year, making plays and keeping it simple in our own zone and quick first passes.”

There’s something else that has impressed young defenseman Jakub Kindl, who hopes to soon emulate White’s shoot-first mentality, especially when it comes to special teams play.

“I just love the way he shoots the puck,” Kindl said. “Every time he has the puck on the blue line he’s not looking to pass it, he’s trying to shoot it and he gets the good results, and I wish that I could be more like that, too.

“Especially when you watch him on the power play, every time he gets it up at the point the first thought in his mind is to shoot the puck.”

Since signing White to a two-year free agency contract during the offseason, the veteran blue-liner, who has played for four other NHL clubs in his short career, quickly meshed with his new teammates.

“I think he just jumped right in and it feels like he’s here for quite some time, to be honest,” Kronwall said. “He’s been playing great ever since he got here. He came into camp, had a hell of a camp I think, and he’s been rolling ever since.”
The bonus for White was that the training camp time spent with his new defensive partner allowed him to put any nerves or anxiety in check prior to the start of the regular-season.

“Initially at camp there were some nerves, but it's a good thing that we got to go to camp together, play some exhibitions together,” White said. “We weren't thrown together right in the middle of the fire. We had some time to get to know each other and work the kinks out, so I was definitely nervous for the first few days getting the chance to play with him, more along the lines of, “Don't screw this up,'' nerves, but with his personality and sitting beside him in the locker room he made it very stress-free and a very easy environment to be relaxed and play the way I know how to play hockey.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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