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Hungry to make playoffs, Radulov heating up at right time

The winger is already in postseason form for the Stars, racking up 15 points over his last 13 games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

On this past road trip, Stars coach Jim Montgomery pointed out Alexander Radulov as one of the Dallas players whose desire to make the playoffs is really pushing the team.

And why not? The playoffs are when Radulov has done some of his best work.

On a team that doesn't have a ton of postseason experience, Alexander Radulov is a shiny penny. He won the Gagarin Cup as champions of the KHL in 2011 and lost in the finals in 2016. In 92 KHL playoff games, he has 89 points (24 goals, 65 assists).

In 24 NHL playoff games with Nashville and Montreal, Radulov has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists), including seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games with the Canadiens in 2017.

That's one of the reasons that missing the playoffs last year was tough on Radulov. He has a history of playing in the postseason, and he pretty much expects to do it every year.

"It sucked last year, for sure, you don't like that," Radulov said of missing the playoffs. "That's one of the reasons we all want to get back this year, because that's why you play."

Radulov is certainly putting on his playoff face early. Since missing a game as a healthy scratch March 5 for being late to a meeting, Radulov has 10 goals and five assists for 15 points in 13 games. He also has 48 shots on goal in that span.

Video: DAL@VAN: Radulov buries wrist shot to tie game

He has been a driving force in helping the Stars play an aggressive game that is creating possession and an advantage in shots on most nights. During the past 15 games, the Stars have taken 471 shots on goal and yielded 435. That's 2.4 more per game than the opposition, and it's a positive change from earlier in the season.

It's true that they still are struggling with converting those chances, but that's where Radulov comes in. As much as he's seen as a "play-making winger," he definitely can score goals.

"He has a great shot, he's a great player," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "He can create on his own, and he is always driving to get the puck, you can tell when he's out there."

Radulov is the ultimate wildcard, though. While the Stars preach control, smart defensive play and poise, Radulov can turn pucks over, lose coverage and take unnecessary penalties. That said, he'll typically then go make up for it on the next shift.

He brings the relentless energy that Montgomery is talking about, and he helps feed his teammates with it.

"Rads has been playing great hockey for the last three weeks now," Montgomery said. "You can tell just by the way he's talking on the bench, he wants to make the playoffs. And you're seeing that permeate throughout our team."

While he was talking about the entire group of forwards, Jason Dickinson said he believes energy like the kind that Radulov emits is contagious when it gets going.

Video: FLA@DAL: Radulov finishes off pretty passing play

"I definitely think that's something all of us can do," Dickinson said. "If you go into a shift trying to win your battle, trying to play with energy, you pass that onto the next line. I think we're all trying to do it, and I think it works when we get rolling."

And, in a perfect world, it can lead to goals.

Andrew Cogliano has two in the past five games, Tyler Seguin has four in the past five games. And Radulov has three in the past five games. But the 32-year-old forward, who had an 11-game goal drought in January and February, said that he can't focus too much on goal scoring.

"You just have to play your game and play hard," he said. "Earlier, I wasn't scoring, but I couldn't get frustrated. The game is like that sometimes. It's true, sometimes the puck just goes in and sometimes it doesn't. If you let that bother you, it can hurt your game. So just go out and play your game and play hard, and hopefully you score."

Hopefully, you do, because it really does help change the outcome of games for the Stars.

"Rads makes it look it easy sometimes," Montgomery said. "Those players are difference makers."

Especially in the playoffs.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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