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January 28, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Katie Strang

Katie Strang
  (3:00 PM)

Hey everyone! A fun first week of hockey, I'd say. Let's dive into it and take some questions. Fire away!

TIm (Tampa)

Katie, I have appreciated your comments over the year about hockey and the lockout. I think everyone needs to start taking the Lightning seriously, this team can score and their defense has improved with the additions of Carle and Salo. What are your thoughts?

Katie Strang
  (3:02 PM)

Hey Tim! Tampa Bay has to be one of the most pleasant surprises for me and some credit has to be given to Steve Yzerman here. Sami Salo with five assists through five games and a plus-9 rating. Also, how about young Cory Conacher? The undrafted forward has two goals and five assists in his first handful of games for the Bolts.

Jesse D (Long Island)

Hi Katie. Do you think the Islanders can finally make the playoffs this year? Outside of a few top teams such as Boston Pitt and (I hate to say it) NYR, the east could be a wild finish this year with a couple sleeper teams slipping into a 7/8 seed. A couple of their pickups have been playing well, and Viznovsky will be coming in a few games. Thanks.

Katie Strang
  (3:04 PM)

I do, Jesse, and I think your assessment on the Eastern Conference is bang-on. Because of the unusual circumstances, I think we're going to see more sleepers than in normal seasons. Right now, Islanders are getting some good offensive production up front. To me it all comes down to goaltending. If Nabokov can give them a chance to win games on a consistent basis than we may see the Isles in the playoffs

Michael (Atlanta, GA)

With the shortened season this year, what team do you think will make the playoffs that normally may not have?

Katie Strang
  (3:06 PM)

I know they have had a rough couple of games, as well as some concerns about their D cropping up, but I still think the Sabres are gonna be a sleeper team. I predict Ryan Miller will have a really strong year.Also was convinced that Ottawa was gonna be on the downturn but Craig Anderson has been phenomenal. Goaltending so crucial in this truncated, compressed schedule

Drew (Indy)

Katie, if you had to pick one of the following teams not to make the playoffs who would it be? PHI, LA, VAN, or NYR

Katie Strang
  (3:08 PM)

Most definitely Philadelphia, Drew. I had concerns about their back end to begin with and they have had some horrible luck so far with injuries. Couple that with a rough start to the season and I think they could miss out, for sure

Patrick (NJ)

What has been the Rangers' biggest problem this season?

Katie Strang
  (3:10 PM)

Scoring depth, in my opinion. When that first line is playing well, they are going to be virtually impossible to stop, but when they don't show up....Beyond newcomer Taylor Pyatt, the Rangers haven't gotten the secondary scoring they need to maintain some balance throughout the lineup.Guys like Callahan, Stepan, Boyle need to step up and put the puck in the back of the net

Patrick (NJ)

Which players have surprised you the most so far?

Katie Strang
  (3:11 PM)

Daniel Winnik for Anaheim probably. With five goals and an assists through the first four games of the season he's averaging a point-and-a-half per game pace. Not to mention he's six goals shy of his career high. That line has been red-hot for the Ducks. Good for Winnik

Steven (Reno)

Katie, how good have the sharks been this year? THe even better side is that they have two top 6 d men out. What can we expect them to do w/ murray when both demers and brent "the hairy mammoth" Burns come back?

Katie Strang
  (3:14 PM)

Really, really good. One of two teams still unbeaten in the league, they've been having a sensational first week out West. Patrick Marleau producing well, as my ESPN.com colleague Pierre LeBrun wrote in today's Cross Checks blog, and that has paid dividends for their top line.Speaking of Marleau, did you know he is second among active NHL players in playoff goals (behind Jaromir Jagr)? Think LeBrun makes a good point that at least SOME of the criticism he has endured over the years hasn't been totally warranted.

Alex (Anaheim)

Do you still believe Nash has been the best Ranger this season?

Katie Strang
  (3:16 PM)

Yes, I do. He has pretty much every element you'd want in a player. Size, speed, skill, etc. He has been really active and dynamic on team's first line and has opened up quite a bit for linemates Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. Think it is only a matter of time until we see his first multi-goal game soon

Knox (Raleigh, NC)

Do you think the Hurricanes' additions of Jordan Staal and Alex Semin can boost the Canes into the playoffs?

Katie Strang
  (3:18 PM)

I genuinely thought those additions would make them the sleeper team in the East, especially with what was initially regarded as a wide-open Southeast, but now I'm not as sold. Now that they've picked up back-to-back wins, maybe they'll come around...

Bill (STL)

Blues will be sitting at the top of LeBruns power rankings come next Monday, true or false? And why?

Katie Strang
  (3:21 PM)

True. And Wade Redden will still be averaging a goal per game :)I'm joking, but only half-joking.I definitely think Redden is gonna be one of the best comeback stories of the year, and I hope that is true. Handled himself with grace and class through a tough few years with NYR. Would love to see him have a good season.Oh, and that Tarasenko's not bad either ;)

Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)

Katie, doesn't the PK Subban holdout and the Flyers injuries and lack of depth on the blue line have "Paul Holmgren panic trade and nonsensical long-term signing" written all over it?

Katie Strang
  (3:23 PM)

Haha, I'm not sure locking up a guy like PK Subban long-term is necessarily a "non-sensical" move, but it obviously depends on what you'd have to give up.As I've said before, I don't think this will be an offer sheet scenario, as the Habs would surely match, but I am interested to see whether MTL is willing to move him and how new GM Marc Bergevin handles the first high-profile contract negotiation of his tenure

Paul (Jersey City)

Hey katie, diehard Blueshirt fan. Rangers looked the best they have all season in second half of Toronto game on Saturday. Richie-Nasher-Gabby really starting to gel and play well together, but absolutely need scoring help on other lines. Any word from Torts on wether he plans on keeping the top line together or maybe "spreading the wealth" and splitting them up?

Katie Strang
  (3:24 PM)

Hey Paul. Tortorella was asked that today. His response:"I'd like to keep them together but we gotta get other guys going."Think this is going to be an ongoing concern for him throughout the season. Second and third lines really need to step up

Joe (Texas)

The Caps finally pulled a win yesterday (on a very pretty one-timer from Ovie, I might add), but will that be enough to lift them out of the funk they've been in? Or are the Caps just going to continue to struggle this year?

Katie Strang
  (3:25 PM)

Granted, it's early and I only have seen them once in person this year, but I'm not feelin it with the Caps. Think they could be in store for a disappointing season

Jerry (Charlotte, NC)

Any word on why Arnott failed his physical?

Katie Strang
  (3:26 PM)

Multiple concerns, including his knee, which was operated on this summer

Bob (NY)

With Arnott out of the picture, have you heard the Rangers looking at any other veteran FA forwards out there? Like Sykora or Moore?

Katie Strang
  (3:28 PM)

Not sure on Sykora but I think the team could potentially be interested in Moore. That's a sensitive situation, however, considering the tragic passing of his wife recently.No one could blame him if he decided not to play this season.

Terry (Illinois)

Do you not think early showings Western Conf is superior?

Katie Strang
  (3:29 PM)

Think St. Louis, Chicago and San Jose are the best three teams in the league right now, so yes.But it's early, so I'm gonna wait a few more weeks before making that declaration

Brad (Los Angeles)

Kate, rumors before the season were that the Blackhawks were looking for a upgrade in net, possibly trading away Leddy, Jammer, and/or some decent prospects if they found a long term solution. However, Crawford has been on fire to start the season. Still think it's worth it for the Hawks to try to acquire a long term solution in net or should the focus now turn elsewhere, maybe a cheaper veteran netminder or a 2nd line center?

Katie Strang
  (3:30 PM)

Think Corey Crawford has gone a long way to silence some of the doubters. Seems really motivated to put last year's playoff performance in the past.

Katie Strang
  (3:31 PM)

Ok all, that's it for today. Thanks for all the great questions. See you next week!