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Lukowich Brings Experience, Cover to Blue Line

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

On Wednesday night against Anaheim, the Stars had a familiar face back on the ice in veteran defenseman Brad Lukowich, who last played in Dallas in 2002 and was a member of the club’s Stanley Cup championship squad back in 1999.

Against the Ducks, the 34-year-old defenseman played 9:36 and finished the game with one shot and was plus-1. His 2011 NHL debut came just a few days after he was recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.

Dallas head coach Marc Crawford got exactly what he expected from the veteran blueliner.

“I liked Brad tonight,” Crawford said after the overtime loss to the Ducks. “I thought he was enthusiastic. I thought made good outlet plays and wasn’t overwhelmed. We desperately needed him to play that type of game. I thought he and Fistric played good.”

Even though his transition to becoming a Star again has been quick, it’s clear this two-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman is glad to be back in Big D.

“Honestly, I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen but I couldn’t be happier. It’s a great organization,” Lukowich said. “The organization’s pretty great to me.”

And returning to the Stars means he’s reunited with former Lightning teammate Brad Richards. The two played together during Tampa Bay’s run to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

“Richie’s a born leader,” Lukowich said. “He’s one of those guys that took our team and ran with it. He had an amazing playoff for us as well as a bunch of other guys but he was definitely an integral part of that. He provided that leadership on ice by scoring big goals when we needed them.”

It’s clear that the Dallas All-Star center is glad to have Lukowich in the room once again.

“I played with him back in Tampa. It’s an easy transition probably at this time of year when you need a veteran guy in the lineup,” Richards said. “It’s a good depth move I think. You’re not throwing a young guy in that has never been in these situations. He’s been through two Stanley Cups. He’s played on some good teams over the years. That will be an easy transition to install him in the lineup.”

Another of his new teammates who is glad to see him join the club is young defenseman Jeff Woywitka.

“His voice in the room is going to be huge,” Woywitka said. “He’s been there. He’s done it all. When he speaks, guys are going to listen. He’s going to bring intensity yet a relaxing intensity of let’s go through it, we’re going to be all right. We’re looking forward to it. He’s a good guy to have here.”

Lukowich looks around at the current Dallas corps of defensemen, a group including the likes of Stephane Robidas, Nicklas Grossman, Trevor Daley and Woywitka among others and admits he’s pretty impressed.

“They’re a good group. They’re quick, so they’re one of those teams that can get on pucks quick and get up ice. Their transition’s really good,” the veteran defenseman said. “The defensive core does a good job of jumping into the play. They’ve got guys that can play defensive hockey when they need to. All around, they’re a good d core. It’s just a matter of keeping everybody healthy and moving forward.”

While it might not be ideal for him to join the Stars so late in the year, it’s not like it’s a foreign experience.

“I’ve been in this situation before. I came into New Jersey in a situation like this a couple of years ago,” Lukowich said. “They had me playing through the end of the playoffs. I’m going to take it day-by-day and go as hard as I can every time I’m on the ice.”

And he has no illusions about what exactly his role might be down the stretch.

“I like to get guys emotionally involved. I like to be physical,” Lukowich said. “This is that time of year and if I can add a little bit of grit to the lineup, I’ll do that where I can. I’m not a goal scorer. My game at this level is to keep it simple, play defensive hockey and keep the puck out of my net.”

His new head coach knows his addition to the roster is as much about what he can bring to the room as well as on the ice.

“He brings us some experience for sure and he’s got a very upbeat personality. Those two things are huge assets to us right now,” Crawford said. “He’s not going to be a huge minute guy but he’s a guy that manages the ice real well. He’s a very smart player. Even though he’s in the twilight of his career, he’s still a guy that was brought in for this purpose-to help our younger players. We’re happy that he’s here. He’s pretty excited about being here. Right now, that excitement is something that’s contagious for the rest of our people.”

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