With an NHL-high 80 points, the Dallas Stars are heading into the Winter Olympic break on a team high.
Pat Verbeek scored twice over a span of 1:23 in the second period to break out of an extended slump, and Roman Turek continued his stellar goaltending with 23 saves as the Stars beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Saturday.
"Sixty five points would have been a good total," said Hitchcock. "So we're excited as heck to have 80. This is as high as we could get, especially with all the key injuries we've had."
The Stars are 8-2-0 over their last 10 games to strengthen their grip on the top spot in the Western Conference. Their 36-13-8 record is the best in the NHL.
"This is a good game for the team to go into the break on a positive note," said Verbeek, who has three goals in his last two games after scoring twice in the previous 20. "This will give us confidence that when we come back, we'll be ready to go back to work."
Meanwhile, Turek, Dallas' backup, has allowed one goal or less in seven of his last eight games while improving his record to 9-5-0. Turek has started four of the last five games while the Stars give No. 1 goalie Ed Belfour time to rest his ailing back.
Turek, a 27-year-old native of the Czech Republic, is being groomed as Dallas' goaltender of the future while Belfour takes care of the present. Belfour has a 26-8-8 record, 1.93 goals-against average, and has already set the club record for shutouts in a season with seven.
"He's a solid goaltender," Hitchcock said of Turek. "Eddie's not going to play forever. He (Turek) makes the saves when they need to be made. It's a nice situation for us having two goalies playing so well."
Michal Sykora scored the only goal for the Blackhawks, 1-4-0 in their last five games.
Sergei Zubov scored the only goal of the first period, a power-play score on a slap shot from beyond the top of the right circle. Zubov's eighth goal plus an assist gave him 46 points, tops among NHL defensemen.
Chicago tied it on Sykora's first goal of the season late in the second period. Sykora beat Turek with a wrist shot from the lower left circle at 16:26.
But the Stars went ahead 2-1 only 51 seconds later on Verbeek's rebound goal. Verbeek added his 18th with 1:20 left in the second for a 3-1 lead when he banked a backhander off goaltender Jeff Hackett.
"The chances have always been there," Verbeek said. "I've dug in and upped the tempo of my game. But I never worry as long as there are chances."
Before the game, Neal Broten became the third player in Stars franchise history to have his number retired. Broten, who wore No. 7, ended his 16-year Stars career last season, finishing as the franchise leader in games played, assists and points. Two other numbers were retired when the team played in Minnesota - Bill Goldsworthy's No. 8 and Bill Masterson's No. 19.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed