by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Texas Stars defenseman Brad Lukowich considers his current effort a case of returning a favor to the Dallas organization.
The rest of the AHL wishes the veteran wasn’t so magnanimous.
Lukowich is a Canuck in Texas, under contract to the Vancouver Canucks but loaned out to the Stars’ affiliate. It’s a natural marriage between a player who made his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars in 1997-98 and a new AHL team that’s laying the foundation of a cinder-block defense.
Through its first 14 games Texas paced the West Division with a 10-2-0-2 record and had surrendered a league-low 1.57 goals per game.
"That’s one thing you can say about our defense. They are consistent every single night," Lukowich said. "We’re not afraid to play 1-0, 2-1 games. We go out and do our thing. Let’s go out and play our game, make the other team change theirs. I tell them play defense first, play your position."
It figures it would take an old-school player to help make a throwback brand of hockey work. Lukowich, 33, is making his first foray into the AHL after a 640-game NHL career and two Stanley Cups. His only other extended minor-league action came with the Michigan K-Wings of the International Hockey League in the 1990s.
"I’m in a great place right now. I have no problems being in this league," he said. "It’s my turn to give back. Dallas gave me an opportunity to be in the league. It’s an excellent situation for me. I ask for the young guys’ opinions as well. It’s a two-way street. It’s a give-and-take relationship."
The sometimes scoring-challenged Stars play from their own end out by necessity, though Lukowich said coach Glen Gulutzan’s systems feed the strength of a defensive corps whose top six might be as good as it gets in the AHL. Lukowich said he’s most impressed by Gulutzan’s ability to make his points in a constructive manner and with his teammates’ accountability and discipline in resisting the lures of potentially risky offensive inclinations.
"The eagerness of young guys to win and learn, it just motivates everybody," said Lukowich, who has a goal, nine assists and a plus-3 rating through 13 games played. "They don’t let (mistakes) fester. The way we play down here is the way you have to do it to move on to the next level."
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.