The Detroit Red Wings defense had several injuries earlier in the season, but it has recently been playing very well as the players are getting healthy again.
With several defensemen that are all capable of being in the top six, there are bound to be one or two that need to sit out. Currently, that defenseman has been Ian White, who has sat out the last five games.
Last year was White's first year with the Red Wings after signing a two-year deal worth around $5.75 million. He played on defense with Nicklas Lidstrom, putting up 32 points and a career-high plus-23 rating.
White, 28, looked like he had a long-term future in Detroit until the lockout occurred. He didn't play during the stoppage, which set him back. White admitted on February 27 to Ansar Khan at MLive.com that it took a few games to get comfortable playing again:
Asked if not playing during the lockout set him back, White said, “It took a little while for getting your wind back. Definitely took a couple of games, if not two weeks.
“I played a couple games and then got set back for two weeks or so with my leg (he missed five games with a laceration to his left leg on Jan. 22), so it took a little longer, but aside from not scoring and getting points I feel I'm playing pretty good. It's funny, some years the shots all go in and the rebounds someone scores on, too, and sometimes it doesn't happen.''
In the 14 games that White has played in this season, he has two points and a minus-two rating. White expressed displeasure at being a healthy scratch (via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press):
"I am taken aback," White said after today's morning skate at Staples. "I didn't see this coming. I feel like I'm playing the same way I've played the last seven years. I work as hard as I can every night. Maybe I don't have the stats this year that I've had in the past, but I feel I'm working hard and playing the same way I always have."
Since then, there have been rumors that White is unhappy and wants to be traded. He shot those rumors down when he was asked about them (via Khan):
“We're not there yet,'' White said. “This is Game 5 (being scratched), you play so many games in a condensed period, it can get away from you pretty quick. All the sudden you look, after the weekend that's seven straight games, if you don't play.
“You just try to get a determination of where (Babcock) thinks you fit and where Ken thinks you fit, now and going forward.''
With White being healthy, he can still offer the Red Wings a veteran defenseman who can score and log a lot of minutes. Though the Red Wings have been playing well recently, they know firsthand that injuries occur and should think about how important capable replacements are.
White is still very valuable and has playoff experience. So even though he's the odd man out currently, he could be back in the lineup playing a significant role.
Coach Mike Babcock saw what White contributed last season, which should assure him that White could be effective in a playoff game and wouldn't get rattled like less experienced players.
While the Red Wings might be tempted by other teams to trade White before the NHL trade deadline on April 3, they should hang on to him.
Playoff-tested veterans are in high demand by Stanley Cup contenders, so it would be a mistake for the Red Wings to trade one away that had 32 points a season ago.
If White can remain patient, he will get his chance to prove that the scratches were a mistake. In the meantime, the Red Wings have the luxury of a solid defenseman ready to step in at a moment's notice.
*All statistics are as of March 8
**All statistics are from hockey-reference.com
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