|Veteran defenseman Brad Lukowich will sit down periodically during the season to update fans on the team's road trips, get-togethers and anything else he finds interesting. Check back often to kick back and relax in Luke's Lounge as he lets you in on the happenings on the road and on the ice. Send me your questions to Luke@tampabaylightning.com
Things have been going great since the last blog. We've had a lot of division games lately. Playing against these teams is the best way for us to get back to where we need to be in the standings and it's been good so far.
Just being back home, I haven't really been doing much. In Washington, I ran into an old friend who's a pilot of Air Force One, so he came out. He wants to get the guys to come out and hang out with him and check out Air Force One. That would be really neat, so we're looking forward to that. Hopefully the next time we go to Washington we'll have a day off or an opportunity to do that. He brought the little presidential M&Ms for everybody from Air Force One, so that was pretty neat.
I haven't really done a lot – it's a pretty slow time of the year, which has been nice. I've had some time to relax, and my restaurant, Luke's SportsGrille, got going back home in Dallas. The limited games have helped me be able to concentrate on getting that open. We're still waiting for one permit, which is a huge hurdle, but other than that, things are going smoothly. It looks fantastic. My dad's there right now with a bunch of buddies, so I'm sure they're breaking it in really nicely for me.
I got a chance to go over to Dan Boyle's the other day to see how he was doing and play a little Guitar Hero 3. I did OK, obviously he can't play, but I was trying to put a smile on his face, and hopefully that worked out. Everyone always gives me crap for my air band and guitar playing and drums and all that stuff, so I stepped it up a notch with Guitar Hero. Now they at least know I can play that.
I have another GrillSmith appearance next Monday in South Tampa. Come on down, invite people and support the YMCA. Enjoy some good food and come hang out. I'll be there to hang out with everyone, answer questions and take some pictures. It's always a lot of fun. The last one was a great success. We had a good time last Monday night out in Clearwater, which was a blast. We had a good time out there with ThunderBug. Unfortunately, it was the same night as Vinny's poker tournament, so I wasn't able to go. I heard it was a great and all the guys said they had a blast. It's a really great thing for Vinny.
Speaking of Vinny, what a game last Wednesday! I remember for his scored his first goal, you could tell by looking at him that he was absolutely exhausted and wanted a change. He went down the ice and used his muscle to cut to the middle and put it up on the shelf with his backhand. He out-muscled a really good skater and a strong guy to score that goal. I skated up to him during the TV timeout and I just kind of looked at him and gave him a little high five and said, 'That's all I can say, man. I really don't have words to say right now.' And he just kind of smiled and said, 'Thanks, man.' That's Vinny. He doesn't talk, he never gets excited. I don't get it sometimes! I look over at him and just think, Man, this guy is SO good! It's great that he gets the attention that he does, because he deserves it. I've been saying it for years, but I really think he's the best all-around player in the league.
As far as Dougie [Janik], I thought it was a great fight! I didn't realize he's as tough as he is. He's a tough kid! He was throwing some heavy punches – I was right there and you could hear them hitting. It was a great fight, and that's good for us. Richy, too.
Our defensive pairings are starting to get a bit more solid. I'll play with Dougie probably 90 percent of the game. I just love playing with him and he's been doing a great job. He plays physical, he doesn't try to do too much, he blocks shots, he makes simple plays and he's got a really hard shot. It's been really great for me – he's a more stay-back kind of guy, like I am, so we kind of complement each other.
Range and Kuba have been playing a lot of minutes. Ranger's just done an amazing job. He's really opened my eyes this year. I knew he was a good player coming in, but being here and seeing him every day, he's just done an amazing job. Same thing with O'Brien. I didn't know a lot about him except that he liked to get under everyone's skin, he liked to bang, liked to fight. Now that he's got an opportunity to actually play the game itself, he's turned in to quite a good player. He's turned a lot of heads.
Lundin, our young guy, he's just kind of doing his thing. He's learning every day, watching video and doing all the little things that a young guy needs to do to be a better player. The best thing about Lundin is that when he makes a mistake, you rarely see him do it again. That's the difference between a guy that will stick in this league and one that won't. Once he makes the mistake and can accept that he made a mistake, he goes back, makes the adjustment and doesn't do it again.
OK, time for some questions:
Phil asked what our signal is for knowing when to make line changes.
For defense, we match against certain players from the other team, certain lines. You put guys who are a little more physical against their physical guys, things like that. That's the home-ice advantage, getting the last change, so Coach Sullivan is basically staring down at the other bench to see who's coming on next, then makes that quick decision to see who to put out against them. He just yells your name out and you know who you're taking, and on which side. He'll say, 'Lukie, you're up next on the left,' or something like that. Our coaches have done a great job, and Tampa is one of the better teams at taking advantage of changes.
Isabel asked how we prepare for games in different time zones.
You really forget about it, to be honest. The time thing, it doesn't really exist. Kind of like days of the week don't exist. Once the season starts, it's like the movie Groundhog Day. It's either a gameday, a non-gameday or a day off. We don't have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Here's a typical gameday: Get up in the morning, have breakfast, go to the rink, have pre-game skate, go eat, go back home, get a nap, get up, eat, go to the game, get prepared, play the game, go home, eat, go to bed.
On a non-gameday, you're just trying to get yourself prepared for practice; icing your body and everything. You go to practice and give it your all, then you come back to take care of your body and spend some time with the family. On the road it's a little easier. You basically just sit around the room with ice and hot packs and watch TV. It's really the same thing over and over again, but I really enjoy it.
Isabel also asked if I talked to Doug Janik before I started the blog, since he did one last year:
No, I didn't, actually. He said he did away games, but I told him that I'm just trying to do it whenever I have days off and have the chance. I heard that a lot of people loved his blog last year, so hopefully mine's OK, too. ?
Stephanie asked if I have any pre-game superstitions:
No, not really. I have my iPod with me every game. Sometimes I'll use the stereo in the dressing room if no one else is in there. But if I'm using headphones, they're in my ears as soon as I get here and really don't come out until just before I go on the ice. I like to listen to anything that'll get your blood going. I kind of build it up as it goes. I have my list of heavy bands that I like to play, and I'll make a play list before I get here so I don't have to worry about it, just press play and go. Some of the bands are Metallica, Sevendust, Disturbed, Neverset (my guys), Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace. I usually pick one or two songs from each and I'm good to go.
Thanks again for the questions, and I'll check back in soon!