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Radulov Returns To Montreal For First Time After Leaving In Free Agency Last Summer

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The Dallas Stars will take on the old team of one of their most entertaining scorers tonight.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars were considered one of the big winners of the offseason, making several big moves to shore up some of their obvious weaknesses, and the signing of Alexander Radulov was just one of the moves that made them the media darlings in July.

Earlier this season, Radulov spoke about wanting to stay in Montreal before deciding to sign with Dallas. If the rumors are true, Habs management offered to match the five year, $31.25 million contract offered by the Stars. But the Stars got the leg-up on the Canadien franchise by showing him a bit of Southern Hospitality.

“Everybody called me and made me feel like they really wanted me here. Hitchcock called me twice on June 30…we talked for 30 minutes. I was on the phone all day. It made me feel really good.”

Radulov is having an incredible season with Dallas since signing this summer. The premiere right wing free agent has fit in well on the top line of the Stars, even if the offense for the team has slowed down lately (not unlike the first 20 games of the season). He’s scored 25 goals and 60 points so far this season, a personal NHL-best in points and just one goal shy of matching his personal best in the goal scoring department.

Radulov is one of three Stars with at least 60 points on the season (Jamie Benn has 23 goals and 60 points while Tyler Seguin has 36 goals and 65 points). John Klingberg is just three points out of joining that club, too. The big four of the Stars has done a lot of heavy lifting, and Radulov has seemed to thrive with being tasked with big minutes in Dallas.

When he signed in Dallas, one of the other things Radulov noted was the team’s proximity to being a contender for the Stanley Cup. “You always want to play on the team that has a chance to win. I really saw that in Dallas.”

That road to contention may not be as smooth as most Stars fans would have preferred so far this year after the big offseason the Stars had. But with 13 games left in the season, Dallas finds themselves right in the thick of the playoff race in the West, while Montreal is all but eliminated from the playoffs now.

In fact, in a bit of irony, they’re likely to be in the mix to win the draft lottery for the draft here in Dallas this summer.

Dallas needs the points, sitting with just a two point lead in the first Wild Card spot. However, they know after losing to the Ottawa Senators last week that a team that is all but eliminated won’t be an easy win.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Outside of a few last-minute tweaks that Hitchcock might make to try to spark some even strength scoring, Stars should roll lines that look something like this:

Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Remi Elie - Jason Dickinson - Devin Shore

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen will likely start today. Whether he goes both nights of this back-to-back set is something we’ll learn tomorrow, likely after seeing tonight’s game and how much work Lehtonen gets in, and how he feels after it. Mike Heika reported at practice that Ben Bishop is possibly getting closer, but it doesn’t sound like he will be available for tomorrow’s game quite yet.

Montreal Canadiens Lineup

Montreal will be playing in the second half of a back-to-back, a situation that Dallas has really not excelled in this year.

Paul Byron - Jonathan Drouin - Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk - Jacob de la Rose - Charles Hudon
Nikita Scherbak - Phillip Danault - Andrew Shaw
Nicolas Deslauriers - Byron Froese - Daniel Carr

Mike Reilly - Jeff Petry
Karl Alzner - Noah Juulsen
Jordie Benn - Brett Lernout

Charlie Lindgren got the start in last night’s game, so the Stars may see another familiar face in net tonight when Antti Niemi takes the pipes.