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by Brad Lukowich / Tampa Bay Lightning
Hello, and Happy Holidays! This month has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Christmas for my family was fantastic. It was just the four of us and we stayed here in Tampa. For me, I was hurt a little bit, so I had a few extra days and really benefited from the break. I got to spend a lot of time with my kids and that was the best thing. We spoiled them rotten, it was fantastic. Santa came and the reindeer ate some carrots out of our backyard, and it was probably the best Christmas that I've had in a long time, since I was a kid.

The big present for the kids this year was a Squawkers McCaw, a FURREAL Pet, and let me tell you, it's for real. It talks to you, it farts, it laughs at you, it plays jokes, it tells you it loves you, that you're cute, you're ugly, the thing is hilarious. We just leave it on and walk around the house and when no one's in the room, all of a sudden you'll hear it start snoring! It's an amazing little toy, a bit different than a rubber ball attached to the paddle, or the Zeppelin from A Christmas Story. Marley got some clothes because she's 9 months old and is a bit between sizes at the moment.

My favorite gift was just being with my family. It's been one of those years where the whole team's going through a funk and it's been tough. This is our livelihood. All the wives and the kids want to see us succeed, and we try not to bring it home, but they know how frustrated everyone is. It was a good time to just forget about it for a little bit. The biggest gift was getting to spend time with my kids and my wife.

My band, Neverset, is coming tomorrow (Saturday) to our game against Philly and to Jannus Landing to play with Sevendust that night. During the game, they'll be at section 104 during the first intermission selling CDs and signing autographs. I think they go on at Jannus Landing around 7 or 8 p.m. I'll be there, with guitar! You might want to get a ticket and come on down, there MIGHT be an appearance onstage. I don't know if I have what it takes, because these guys are pretty good, and very theatrical. They swing guitars around and do all sorts of stuff, so me standing up there like a chump may be all I've got. But definitely come check out the show. It's going to be awesome.

We had a good day today at practice. It was fun, and I don't think that word's come out of our mouths in a while. I haven't seen that many smiles in a long time. It's a good atmosphere in the room. We're going to be alright. Just the feeling I have right now…we're going to be fine. We know how good we can play and all we have to do is mentally prepare ourselves to play that way every night. If something goes wrong, we need to get over it and move on. It's up to us to get it done, and we will.

As far as the shoulder, I'm feeling great. The first game back against Washington, the first period was a tough one, but after talking to the trainers, it was just stiffness. I had basically been immobilized for six days, and the joint was just stiff. After that first period, it just kind of fell in to place. I don't even feel it's an issue anymore.

Meg asked if the defense has upped the playing level with Dan Boyle out, and if we're going to be better for having stepped up.
Yeah, I think everyone has. Paul Ranger has turned in to such a great player. Our record kind of overshadows how well this guy plays and how good he is. He's a go-to guy, he's still young, he jumps in the play but still stays solid defensively. He's never killed penalties up until this year, and he's done a great job of it so far. I think he's really stepped up. Lundin has done an amazing job. He's come in, kind of as a guy that no one had really heard about, and has gotten the job done. Doug Janik has improved every day. The guy deserves every minute he gets out there. He battles hard, he competes hard and he's not afraid to drop the gloves. I'm getting my hits in and contributing where I can. I'd like to be a little more offensive, but right now I'm just kind of focusing on the defensive side of things. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution, to jump into the plays a bit more! I think our defense has really stepped it up, and having Boyler come back is just going to make us that much stronger and really give us a boost. It would be really nice to get a boost right now.

Stephanie asked about some of the best pranks ever pulled in the locker room.
I've seen some good ones, and a lot that I can't really talk about! I've seen a guy's car get filled to the top with the little packing peanuts. There used to be something every day in Dallas. Guys would cut your laces on your skates if you were late to practice, to make you really late, or cut all your sticks so they break every time you try to take a shot. Most of them I can't really talk about. They're funny, but a little bit much. Andre and Marty have both hidden in the ice machine down here this year, to scare people when they go to grab ice. That one's great.

Danielle asked if it's difficult playing against former teammates.
Yeah, it is. For me, I'm a guy that's been around a little bit, but I think the first time you do it is the toughest. You always have some jitters about it, though. Coming back and playing in Tampa last year was tough. There were still a lot of the guys here that I had played with and won the Cup with, and when you win, it's a completely different story, you become family and it's something that you hold together forever. Playing in Dallas the first time was also tough. Those two really stand out for me. The home opener against New Jersey this year was interesting. Thankfully I had the excitement of it being the home opener to keep me focused on the game, and not on the team we were playing.

I think that's about it for now, don’t forget about the show at Jannus Landing tomorrow!

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