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Wings are 'new start' for White

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Newcomer Ian White skated with some Wings teammates Friday at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Bill Roose)
DETROIT – In the last two seasons of his short NHL career, Ian White has been a well-traveled commodity. The Red Wings’ new defenseman spent time with four different clubs, but now White hopes the revolving door has come to a lengthy rest.

“In many ways it’s a new start, but I’ve accomplished some things in my career,” said White, who skated for the first time with many of his new teammates at the Wings’ informal practice Friday morning. “All I can do is continue to improve as a player and as a person. This is just another opportunity to progress.”

With the sudden retirement of Brian Rafalski, who was the team’s lone right-handed shot on the blue line, the Wings truly needed someone of White’s skills.

A 5-foot-10, 195-pound right-handed shot, White is a feisty-type, despite his small stature. And on a team whose average age is now 29.04, the 27-year-old White is the second youngest defenseman, behind Jakub Kindl (24).

White is a similar technician as Rafalski, but he plays with a “snarl”, as Wings general manager Ken Holland called it. White is a very solid puck-possessor, and he has a booming shot from the point that will be a valuable asset on the Wings’ power-play. And like left-handed starting pitching, NHL clubs can’t get enough right-handed defensemen like White, who will provide balance on the point when playing opposite of left-handed shots like Nicklas Lidstrom or Niklas Kronwall.

“I think it is pretty important,” said White, of being right-handed. “It’s just like if I was playing with a right-handed guy on the left side, it’s going to be a little bit different. You’d like to have as many options as you can, so to be able to add a right-handed shot into the mix, it will help.”

White played for three teams last season – Calgary, Carolina and San Jose – and was a top-four defenseman for the Sharks, where he registered a goal and eight assists in 17 Stanley Cup playoff games, including a goal and assist in a seven-game series against the Red Wings.

It was during that bitter seven-game Western Conference semifinals series that White gained an appreciation for the Wings-Sharks rivalry.

“I think it’s very intense,” he said. “I think the last few years in the playoffs – and I’m sure it started even a few years before that – it’s going to continue this year and it’s great for the game. Hopefully this year we’re going to flip it around.”

White said he cherishes the opportunity to face his old Sharks teammates next spring in the playoffs.
“I don’t think it will be tough at all. It’s just part of the business,” White said. “If our paths cross again, it will be fun to be on this side of the coin. Not too many people get the opportunity to do that, so it’s going to be fun.”

Another thing that White is looking forward to this season is learning from one of the greatest defenseman in NHL history.

“You guys can probably put it in better words than I can,” said White, of playing along side Lidstrom. “It’s just really an opportunity to practice with guys like him and to watch what he does out there. I’m going to learn so much just by being around him every day, let alone having the chance to play with him. I have no idea how that will all play out. But just being around him, it’s definitely going to enhance me as a player.”
Henrik Zetterberg reacts to a shot during his first informal skate with teammates at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Bill Roose)

FEELING OF RELIEF: Henrik Zetterberg, who was the eighth forward to return this week to join other Wings for an informal practice at Joe Louis Arena, said he was happy with the roster moves made in the off-season. But he was mostly satisfied by the announcement that Lidstrom was coming back for a 20th NHL season.

“I was really excited when I got the news,” said Zetterberg, following Friday’s morning skate. “I think everyone is happy that he is still around, and nobody wants to think of the day that he’s not here. So we want to live in the moment and look forward to having him for another year.”

While the players knew that Lidstrom’s decision was out of their control, Zetterberg said it didn’t stop them from lobbying their legendary teammate.

“We all did, but I think the decision came down to him and his family,” Zetterberg said. “You just wanted to remind him of all of the positive and happy things that we all do together, and not think of the negative things. We had a lot of talks, and it ended in a good way.

“It would have been a tough (year), and it will be a tough one when he leaves. But it would have been especially tough if it would have been this year.”

NOTEBOOK: The players will take a break over the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend and continue informal practices Tuesday morning at JLA. … Kronwall said that he may head up north. Justin Abdelkader planned to attend tonight’s Michigan State football opener against Youngstown State in East Lansing.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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