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White's set for Wednesday return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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)
DETROIT – Still looking a little worse for wear, Red Wings defenseman Ian White was back at practice Tuesday morning for the first time since suffering a fractured cheekbone when he heroically dove in front a fast-moving puck against the Dallas Stars Nov. 12. (CLICK HERE TO WATCH PLAY)

White was struck under the right eye by a shot from forward Jamie Benn. With goalie Jimmy Howard sprawled out and on the opposite side of the crease, Benn had a clear opening to flip the puck into the net from close range. But White’s quick-thinking reflexes – not to mention sacrifice – definitely prevented the Stars from scoring.

“I didn’t have much time to think about it, I just saw that the guy had a tap in, so I jumped in front of it,” said White, who needed 13 stitches to close a large cut under his right eye. “Obviously, you don’t want it in the face. I expected a big pool of blood because it was a pretty solid impact, but there wasn’t a lot of blood, but definitely a lot of pain. I knew he got me pretty good.”

The fractured cheekbone and the accompanying sinus problems prohibited White from traveling with the team on the four-game road trip, which concluded Sunday. But he is expected back in the Wings’ lineup when they host Calgary Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

“I probably could have played a little bit sooner, I just couldn’t fly on an airplane with all of the sinus and the pressure,” White said. “But I feel great and it doesn’t really hurt at all. I think everything is good to go.”

Someone who was happy to see White back in practice was his blue line partner, captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

“I thought he looked good, I don't know how he felt, but he looked good,” Lidstrom said. “He skated well, being off for 10 days now, considering that I thought he looked real good out there.”

In 15 games this season, White has three goals, four assists and leads all Wings’ defensemen with a plus-8 rating.

For the time-being, White will be required to wear a full-face shield to prevent further damage to his cheek. Just one of a few Wings who don’t wear a half-shield, White said he may now consider it.

“I’ll have to think about it, I’ll probably wear one for at least the rest of the season,” he said. “Who knows if it even would have stopped the puck? You never know. It’s obviously a scary place to have any injury, so you want to protect yourself.”

To make room for White’s return the Wings returned forward Fabian Brunnstrom to Grand Rapids, and decided to keep rookie Brendan Smith, who had his bags packed Tuesday afternoon before coach Mike Babcock told him that he was staying.

When asked about Smith’s return to Grand Rapids, Babcock looked to the opposite side of the Wings’ dressing room where the 22-year-old defenseman was cleaning out his locker stall, and said, “Is Smitty's bag’s packed? Don't pack your bag you might be playing here tomorrow.”

With eight defensemen on the current roster, Babcock said that he’ll make a decision after Wednesday’s morning skate on who will fill the sixth defensive spot against the Flames.
“He's played excellent for us, coming in as a rookie,” said Lidstrom, of Smith’s first three games. “He's a good skater and using that to his advantage. He plays sound defense. He's had a great couple games for us.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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