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Stars welcome Blackhawks in pivotal Western tilt

Dallas has picked an opportune time to play some of its best hockey of the season, but the Stars can't afford to let their collective foot off the accelerator now.

Not with the Chicago Blackhawks coming to town on Saturday.

The two teams faced off against each other on Feb. 24 in Chicago, with the Stars winning 4-3. Since then, Dallas (35-27-5, 75 points) has added four more victories and continues to hold onto the Western Conference's first wild-card playoff spot, a point up on Minnesota.

Saturday's battle with the Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center is the final contest of a three-game homestand for Dallas, with the most recent contest a 4-0 win over Colorado on Thursday.

Alexander Radulov returned from missing a game because of a team rules violation and netted his first NHL hat trick, scoring goals in all three periods, including an icing-on-the-cake empty-netter with 2:58 to play.

The pressure to continue to win, especially at home, is huge. But the Stars have been feeding off of that during this surge. Thursday's victory, and the manner which was accomplished, might have been Dallas' most complete of the season.

"It's one of (the most complete games of the season)," Dallas coach Jim Montgomery told the media afterward. "Definitely if you consider the moment, how important the game was. The emotion that we played with I thought was 60 minutes of really hard hockey. We had some big plays within it."

Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was perfect for the second straight game, turning away 31 shots while recording his fifth shutout of the season and the 29th of his 10-year NHL career.

Bishop added to the 28 saves he racked up on Tuesday in a 1-0 win against the New York Rangers and has gone more than 144 minutes without giving a goal while posting back-to-back clean sheets for the first time in his career. Bishop is 7-2-0 with three shutouts in his past nine starts.

Radulov, the Stars' second-leading scorer, took full responsibility for his healthy scratch on Tuesday, and said that he learned a lesson from it.

"We're all human -- I just overslept and came in a little bit later than the time I was supposed to be here," Radulov said. "Rules are rules for everybody, so I think it's in the past and we're done with it, so it's okay. It's always nice to bounce back and have a game like that, and to do the little things to help your team."

The Blackhawks head to Dallas after a 5-4 home shootout win over Buffalo on Thursday. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat scored in the shootout to lift Chicago (28-30-9, 65 points) to the victory.

"Two points for the team," Kane told reporters after the win. "Keeps us in it. We knew it was kind of a must-win tonight. We know we can be better but this gets us some confidence going into Dallas."

Chicago is nine points out of a wild-card spot with 15 games to play.

Kane's performance on Tuesday allowed him to pass Steve Larmer for fourth in points in team history. Kane has 40 goals and 56 assists, ranking second in the NHL with 96 points. He is 10 away from his career-high of 106 in 2015-16.

"He just keeps getting better," Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford told the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's really all you can say. He just keeps improving, sees the ice so well. He's one of the best players in the league, so we need him to be at a high level and he keeps reaching even further. It's fun to watch him play."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 8, 2019

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