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September 18, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Katie Strang

Katie Strang
  (2:00 PM)

Hey everyone! Welcome back for another exciting season of hockey -- a full season this year, thankfully! I know you've been sitting on those questions all summer, so feel free to unleash. Missed you all during the off-season! Fire away!

Joe (Texas)

Katie, The Capitals had a relatively quiet off-season following the departure of Ribeiro and Hendricks. Do you think the Grabovski acquisition will be enough to make up for losing those two? And will the Caps extend their playoff streak to seven years?

Katie Strang
  (2:04 PM)

Hey Joe-I expect the Capitals to have a strong season, yes. In fact, I believe they will challenge for the Metropolitan Division (ugh, still trying to get use to these new names). I love Matt Hendricks' jagged-edged game; he's the type of player you miss more than you expect. I think Mike Ribeiro's the opposite. He cashed in at the right time, but I don't foresee him being able to replicate the type of season last year. Good news for Caps fans is that players really seemed to embrace Adam Oates' system mid-season and they flourished down the stretch. Picking up where they left off, expect them to have a much different start to the season this year. One of the most interesting players to watch on that team, to me, is Mike Green. The offensive-minded defenseman finally feels healthy and he sounds eager to prove himself as one of the elite blue-liners in the league. Think he could have a really big year

Owen (Berkeley)

Perusing the top 50/100 lists, not a whole lot of Devil going on. Is this squad another sneaky good Lou-ensemble cast, or a long way from greatness? Or both?

Katie Strang
  (2:07 PM)

I think Lou Lamoriello has made some shrewd moves -- trading for Cory Schneider, signing Damian Brunner to a PTO -- but I think depth will once again be an issue for the Devs. You can't lose players of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk's caliber in consecutive off-seasons and not feel their loss like a heavy punch to the gut. Compound that with the fact that you have a guy like Jagr, who is already hampered by injury, and Ryane Clowe, who is coming off two pretty major concussions, and I think that's cause for concern. Too many question marks

Mike (SJ)

The ESPN player rankings were, well, disappointing. How in the universe is Marc-Edouard Vlasic not in the top 50 defensemen. Heck, how is he not in the top 25? If you guys are only going to look at stats, stop looking at points and start looking at the advanced ones that show you which defensemen are actually, you know, good at defense.

Katie Strang
  (2:08 PM)

Hey, feel free to savage those rankings, because I think that's part of the fun. Agree with you that were some serious surprises, but I have to say that I found some of the forward selections more baffling. No Shane Doan or Bobby Ryan in the top 100, Ilya Kovalchuk at no. 64. Clearly there is some room left for debate :)

Alex (Anaheim)

When do you expect Stepan to sign?

Katie Strang
  (2:11 PM)

Hard to tell, Alex, but I think he will ultimately be in camp within the next week, possibly joining the Rangers out West. Rangers GM Glen Sather told me last week that Stepan is prepared to take a two-year bridge deal, so that's a significant step. The two sides are still trying to close the gap on money, but at least they are not fighting on term. Stepan is a competitive guy; this has to be really hard for him to endure. Plus, with the emergence of training camp surprise Oscar Lindberg maybe that puts a little extra pressure on Stepan to come to an agreement soon. Dubinsky's holdout lasted eight days in 2009. Stepan is at that threshold as of today

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

What do you think of the Rangers, Islanders, & Devils playing 2 NHL Hockey Games at the end of January in Yankee Stadium?

Katie Strang
  (2:14 PM)

I love it. I know a lot of people are arguing that the novelty of the Winter Classic and its integrity as a signature event is compromised by the other series of games, but it seems to be a coup for the fans. Has to be a cool event for them. It's obviously a money-maker for the league, which has to be the motivation, but if it pleases the fan, especially some of the more marginalized fan bases, fine by me. I'm looking forward to them myself

Alan (Queens)

Thank G-d hockey is back ... Baseball continues to bore me.Two-part Islander question.1. Are you surprised that the Islanders didnt make a play for Jonas Hiller or Jaroslav Halak to compete with Nabby for the #1 spot? I still believe that we are weak in net to make any sort of run in the postseason.2. Out of Ryan Pulock, Griffin Reinhart, Scott Mayfield, Calvin De Haan and Matt Donovan, who do you feel has legitimate top-4 talent moving fwd. The reason I ask is why I believe this might be the last season we see Andrew McDonald in an Islander sweater.Thanks Katie ... beat the Irish Saturday.

Katie Strang
  (2:18 PM)

Hey Alan- Thanks for the Sparty support :)1) No, I'm not. They know what they have in Nabokov and though I don't think he's capable of making a long playoff run, they clearly value his veteran experience. Think they still want to see what they have in young goaltending prospects Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson as well, both of whom are expected to compete for the backup job.2) I think either Ryan Pulock or Griffin Reinhart have the most potential, but Matt Donovan is probably the most NHL-ready.Agree that McDonald could be on the move - he is definitely an underrated d-man -- but durability has been an issue with him

Richard (Dallas,Tx)

Hey Katie Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. So do you see any of the new guy breaking with the Ranger after the preseason is done,also how does Marc Staal and Dominic Moore look to you since they both coming back from a long layoff.

Katie Strang
  (2:21 PM)

Moore has been pretty impressive, especially considering he hasn't played an NHL game since April (not to mention what he has gone through during his hiatus). He's made sharp, subtle plays that show his veteran savvy and his conditioning seems to be pretty good. He gives them some good depth down the middle.Also, glad to see Marc Staal so relieved after his first pre-season game. Think he was confident that his eye had recovered going into camp, but it's hard to tell until you get into a real, live game. Assuming he returns to form, the Rangers will be in very good shape on defense

ray gordon reid ( littleton co 80120)


Katie Strang
  (2:21 PM)

I know this. With Patrick Roy, they certainly will not be boring...

JP (Babylon, NY)

Katie, do you think the hybrid icing rule with be brought into effect in the regular season after the 'testing period' during preseason games?

Katie Strang
  (2:23 PM)

I know that, in talking to some players, there are still some kinks being worked out with the way it's being called. Few times a play has been whistled dead where it shouldn't have been. Still seems to make more sense to just go to no-touch icing.

Rob (Miami)

Thought on Tim Thomas' return to the NHL and what he could do for the Panthers?

Katie Strang
  (2:24 PM)

Really depends on where he is at physically (and mentally, I guess). He's had a very long layoff and let's face it, he's no spring chicken. At the very least he can push and mentor Markstrom, though, so maybe it's not such a bad move for Dale Tallon

Steve (Long Island)

If Strome make the Isles out of camp it has to be on 1st line wing correct?

Katie Strang
  (2:26 PM)

Not necessarily. Obviously, with a player that possesses that talent and potential, you want to put him in a position to succeed, but that doesn't always guarantee a spot on the first line. Look at Colorado. I believe Patrick Roy has stated that Nathan McKinnon will start on the third line. I see Pierre-Marc Bouchard playing on a line with Moulson and Tavares, anyway. Seems like a PA Parenteau-type fit and that trip was very good together

Jeremy (NJ)

who has a better chance of making the NYR opening night roster- fasth, kristo or lindberg?

Katie Strang
  (2:28 PM)

I think Lindberg has really made an impression on the Rangers' coaching staff and management. He was terrific in the Traverse City prospects tournament and he addresses a certain need the Rangers have, especially while they are without Derek Stepan. Danny Kristo is one to watch, though. Alain Vigneault was impressed with his game Monday night, said he had good poise and offensive abilities. He doesn't seem fazed by much.

Nico Bravo (New York)

What do you think of the coach swap b/t VAN and NYR? Who do you think will be more successful this year?

Katie Strang
  (2:31 PM)

It's very interesting, as both places were clearly seeking a culture change and a fresh voice. You can already tell the Rangers are a much more relaxed, carefree group under Vigneault, but let's not forget that Tortorella was responsible for success with the team. I have more question marks about Vancouver than I do New York; Canucks have one of the oldest rosters, I believe. I'll be very curious to see how receptive veterans like Ryan Kesler and the Sedins are to Tortorella's abrasive style

Mark (Washington, DC)

Who is your too early to tell Stanley Cup winner?

Katie Strang
  (2:32 PM)

I like Chicago (for the repeat), St. Louis, or San Jose right now, but don't hold me to those quite yet! We are making our official picks by next week, so I'll take a bit more time to let it marinate until then

Jason (Vancouver)

You've seen a lot more of Torts than us west coasters. What do you expect out of the Canucks this year with essentially the same team as last year but new coaching?

Katie Strang
  (2:33 PM)

He'll give guys a jolt, but ultimately his act really wears people out. Coaches like him have a shelf life. Just a matter of how much he's able to coax out of the Canucks before that time comes

tdiddy (winnipeg) [via mobile]

Cheveldayoff got a 2 year extention here in Winnipeg today. I'm a little perplexed. Have not sniffed the playoffs yet since returning to Winnipeg and our "stars" are not playing up to their potential. He had 3 years left on his contract which is the perfect amount of time to see if all of his offseason trades, draft picks and signings will work out. Thoughts?

Katie Strang
  (2:33 PM)

Let's just say that I was similarly "perplexed" when I heard the news...

Chris (Richmond)

Marc-Andre Fleury had another breakdown in the playoffs and there were reports of him seeing a sports psychologist in the off-season. Are the Pens going to attempt another run with Flower in goal or start moving in another direction?

Katie Strang
  (2:35 PM)

That all depends on how he performs in the regular season. If the cracks begin to show, they really have no choice to move in another direction. Last year's implosion was pretty remarkable.

Suburban Rhythm (Pittsburgh)

Not to pile on the rankings, but Brendan Morrow at #99...and Pascal Dupuis not even on the list? What the...

Katie Strang
  (2:38 PM)

No, no, pile on as much as you like. Those are mean to spark debate. Any time you poll that many people, you are going to get pretty disparate opinions. There were a ton of surprises on that list. I mean, Marty Brodeur was listed lower than Cory Schneider, a guy Lou Lamoriello traded for to back him up! In my mind a lot of the shortcomings on the rankings came down to undervaluing experience. Too many guys with limited experience ranked way too high considering such a small body of work

Ed (Queens Village)

How is this year new playoff format looking like? I would prefer the 8 best teams in each conference then new system.

Katie Strang
  (2:38 PM)

Make that the both of us. I'm still so confused...

joey (cubicle hell)

Katie.. now that the Wings are in the East, where do you see them finishing? Top2 or 4

Katie Strang
  (2:40 PM)

Top 4. I think they are going to have a big year. And I'm not just saying that because I'm from the mitten :)Can't wait to see how Daniel Alfredsson fits in there.

Pat (Chicago)

How do you feel about rule changes for fights where an instigator penalty is assessed for removing helmets? Is this the next major step in the NHL's master plan to remove fighting from the game?

Katie Strang
  (2:41 PM)

I think it's dumb. Either do away with fighting or don't, but an arbitrary rule like that one isn't going to deter a guy from taking his helmet off when fighting. That's just instinct

Rick (Los Angeles)

Why don't you guys cover the west? Lots of good teams out here..

Katie Strang
  (2:43 PM)

Haha, I knew there would be some accusations of an East Coast bias, somewhere! Largely it's our proximity to Eastern Conference teams that dictates where we all spend most of our time and coverage, though I can assure you that we all know the talent that's out there in the WC. Wouldn't be surprised if all four of us pick Stanley Cup Champions from the West

Katie Strang
  (2:44 PM)

Ok all, that's it for today. Thanks so much for joining in with some great questions. Really looking forward to hearing from you each week as the season starts!