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March 29, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with EJ Hradek

Bill (Chicago)

What player is the Hawks missing the most this year? Would you say Big Buff?

EJ Hradek
  (3:05 PM)

Yeah, I think so. He is a unique player. He's a guy that you can put at power forward, he can play defense. He's versatile. Has good size. I think they'll miss him more in the playoffs, where he can contribute in a lot of ways. He was a big part of the Cup win last year. If you were to go back and ask the Hawks, that might be one move they made where maybe they would like to do different. But he signed a big contract in Atlanta, so it might have been a short term solution

Jim (Grand Rapids, MI)

Greetings EJ! Great game last night between Detroit/Chicago. Thoughts on Bertuzzi's hit and ejection?

EJ Hradek
  (3:06 PM)

It was a tricky one, I thought, because it looked like he was going to deliver a hit. The video looked like he made contact, elbowed him in the head. Anything that happens around Todd Bertuzzi, here we are 7 years removed from that incident, anything involving him creates a stir. If he were to get a suspension, it wouldn't break my heart. I don't think there was an intent to do what he did, but that's what did end up happening. I could see a possibility of giving him a game suspension or two. We'll see in the next day or so.

Bill (Bridgewater, NJ)

EJ, do the Devils have a chance at all to make the playoffs or should I consider them done?

EJ Hradek
  (3:07 PM)

You can consider them done. But they had a helluva second half. The fact that they were even able to propel themselves legitimately into the conversation really speaks to their pride that they never threw the season away. They had a tremendous run. That's something for them to build on, hopefully.

John (MD)

How big of a deal is it if Mike Green does not return for the playoffs in DC?

EJ Hradek
  (3:08 PM)

I think it's a pretty big deal. He's a guy that really can jump start their attack. He can make plays. He can score with one shot from distance. Yeah, there are some short comings in his defensive zone play, but he's a really good player. You want him in the lineup.

Todd(Allentown Pa) [via mobile]

In ur opinion what's goin on with the Flyers? As of late they can't finish n look sluggish at times n r making teams looking faster then they are. You think it's Laviolette working them to hard? Bad Goalie play? Them missing Pronger? As a Flyers fan it's definutly time to be concerned. Can they still be the #1 seed n win the East? Thoughts?

EJ Hradek
  (3:10 PM)

I would be worried if I were them. They haven't been at the top of their game for a while. They've been inconsistent. We'll see if they can raise their game up in the playoffs. We'll see if they play better when Pronger comes back. That's a huge piece of the puzzle. I still like their team a lot. The league is so close, you want to be playing well this time of the year and right now they've been pretty inconsistent. I'll be interested to see how they play tonight.

Alex (Boston)

Do you see Tyler Seguin developing into the star he was hyped up to be? I know its way to early to even consider him a bust, he is not, but the hype was so big, I think some would say his season has been somewhat of a dissapointment. Do you think Claude Julien has utilized him well?

EJ Hradek
  (3:11 PM)

I think he's going to be a really good player. It's his first season. He's playing on a good team. There has been no reason to rush him into big minutes. The Bruins are trying to ease his transition in the the NHL. This is a talented player that will be good for a long time. Will he be Gretzky? No. Crosby? No. But he has the chance to develop into a high end center and will help Boston win for a long time.

James - Denver [via mobile]

I know you love the nhl but how refreshing is it to watch and be apart of the NCAA hockey tourney?

EJ Hradek
  (3:13 PM)

It was great. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching all the games. It's better to be at the games, but that was the next best thing, being at the ESPNU studios in Charlotte and monitoring all of the games. It was a great weekend of college hockey. I'm looking forward to the Frozen Four in a couple of weeks. I think the North Dakota Fighting Sioux would be the favorite, but we'll see who skates away from the national title.

Pete (Nashville)

Do you think the Islanders play over the last 2-3 months is real? Can they be a top 4-5 team in the Eastern Conference next season?

EJ Hradek
  (3:18 PM)

I don't know if they're ready for that, but the one thing that we know is that they're getting better. They have players getting better with each game of experience, gaining confidence. When you wipe the slate clean for next season, can they just keep being the same team and turn into a top 4-5 team? I don't know. At the start of the season, everyone starts on the same page and teams aren't overlooking you. We'll see, but the one thing is that their younger players are getting better. They certainly have a chance to progress and maybe compete for a playoff spot next year.

Rob (Calgary)

The flames run through the saecond half has been a lot of fun to watch, but looking at the standings, even if the Flames do run the table and hit 97 points, i'm not sure that'll be enought to make it into the post season in the west...Personally I'd love to see the top 16 teams regardless of which conference they play in face off against each other in the playoffs. Make for some awesome cross conference matchups in the first round.

EJ Hradek
  (3:20 PM)

Once upon a time, the NHL did that in the early 80s, maybe late 70s, but they did run a 1-16. Part of the problem was there was some crazy travel issues. I remember the Islanders having an opening round series against the Kings. Going across the country. I think the league likes conferences and division play. The potential for rivalries. There has been no appetite from the people that make those decisions to change it. I wouldn't have anything against it. But these things are cyclical. I'm pretty comfortable with the way they do it right now.

Jeremy (Rochester, NY)

Do you think the East playoff picture is pretty much set? or is someone gonna leapfrog Buffalo.

EJ Hradek
  (3:21 PM)

I think it's pretty much set. It's not impossible to think that Carolina could get there. I don't think there's enough time, really. I don't think Buffalo will collapse. I think it's prety much set and those will be the 8 teams.

Pat (Chicago)

The Hawk's win over the Redwings was a nice rebound from their crushing loss to the Ducks. But with 4 or 7 remaining games on the road and 5 of 7 against teams currently projected in the playoffs, do they have enough left in the tank to make the cut? Even if they make it, can they escape a 7 game series against Detroit or Vancouver?

EJ Hradek
  (3:23 PM)

It's not going to be easy. But the good thing is that every time they come upon a game that they need to win, they win it. They're finding ways to get it done when needed. They have another challenge tonight against the Bruins. It's not locked up by any stretch. Once they get in, if they get in, it will be a real challenge. At that point, they have to hope that Patrick Sharp will be back. He's a big part of their group.

EJ Hradek
  (3:23 PM)

It's not going to be easy. But the good thing is that every time they come upon a game that they need to win, they win it. They're finding ways to get it done when needed. They have another challenge tonight against the Bruins. It's not locked up by any stretch. Once they get in, if they get in, it will be a real challenge. At that point, they have to hope that Patrick Sharp will be back. He's a big part of their group.

Shane (AZ)

EJ: Where do you see the Coyotes ending up in the West, and who's their best possible first-round matchup?

EJ Hradek
  (3:25 PM)

It's hard to say. A point here or there makes a difference. It's tight. They could finish in the 4-5 range again. With that conference this year, teams go up, teams go down. The Coyotes are a real streak team. I would keep an eye on their game tonight against Dallas. There's some bad blood between them. It will be a real intense game tonight.

Jon (Des Moines)

Your thoughts on the Wild this season? 35-32-8 seems to be an achievement to me, in most regards. What are their areas that need to be upgraded in the offseason? Seems like they play a lot of close games.

EJ Hradek
  (3:26 PM)

The problem for the Wild is they've gone into a total collapse in the last month. They've lost 8 straight. That doesn't bode well for their coach. He might get fired at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see what happens in Minnesota when the season ends. Prior to this free fall, I thought they overachieved this year. They have a lot of work to do. They are on that treadmill of teams that fall between 7-12 in the conference. They have to get passed that if they want to be a Cup contender.

Brian (Portland, OR)

EJ: if you were Bruce Boudreau, would you play out the season without Ovi and/or Arnott or would you want them back in action ASAP?

EJ Hradek
  (3:28 PM)

First of all, both are really close to playing again. Ovechkin might play tonight. I'm not sure what the latest is, but that's what I heard. I think they want to be careful. They're going to be back soon. The idea for Washington is to have them as ready as possible. I think they're handling it well. Right now, I don't think they're in danger. They're just being cautious and getting them ready for a very important time for the franchise. They're trying to put their best foot forward.

Dave (State College)

Who do you think will win the east, Philly Pittsburgh or Washington?

EJ Hradek
  (3:29 PM)

I'll say Philly for now. I think that it's hard to really for them to fall unless they go on a losing streak. But it's close and they could end up in any order. If Pittsburgh ends up the No. 1 seed, that would be quite an achievement, for a team that's played without their two best players for most of the second half of the season.

EJ Hradek
  (3:32 PM)

Enjoy the games. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @EJHRadek_ESPN.