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December 19, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Scott Powers

Scott Powers
  (2:07 PM)

Hi all, sorry I ran a few minutes late. I hope everyone is having a good Thursday. I'll be here for about an hour.

Tony Dallas [via mobile]

I think Patrick Kane is the best player in the league. Each year he has shown improvement in his game and wanted your take on his play since he came into the league.

Scott Powers
  (2:09 PM)

Tony, it's hard to say he's the best player in the league, but he's certainly moving up the ladder. You're starting to see some real progression in the past two years. I talked to his summer trainer the other day and hope to have a story later this week, but Kane is starting to understand how to get defenders to do what he wants and is creating more scoring chances for himself and others. He isn't near his ceiling yet either.

Mark W (Arvada, CO)

In watching the Hawks, it seems clear that both Pirri and Morin have shown they have the ability to play at the NHL Level, what do you think is the deciding factor that is keeping Bollig up and those guys in Rockford? Is it just the physical/enforcer role for Bollig? Experience? And do you think either Pirri or Morin is more likely to be playing 4th line come playoff time?

Scott Powers
  (2:13 PM)

Mark, Bollig does have his place on the team because of that enforcer role. I agree with you that Pirri and Morin have proven they can play in the NHL. They would likely be in most teams' lineups around the league right now, but Quenneville is difficult to please when it comes to playing defense. I think both will get another chance in the NHL this season, but I'm not sure where they fit in when everyone is healthy, especially if Teravainen joins the team.

mike (Chicago) [via mobile]

Hey Scott, with the hawks goalie situation do you see them just riding out raanta until Corey can play. Or is Simpson going to get a shot to start a game.

Scott Powers
  (2:14 PM)

Mike, I don't believe Simpson will get a start. He may even be sent down soon, and the Blackhawks will recall LaBarbera. Bowman made it sound as if they'd prefer to have LaBarbera up with the team because he has NHL experience. Simpson just isn't ready right now.

Ryan (Joliet)

If injuries aren't a problem, do the Blackhawks anticipate Adam Clendening playing in Chicago this season? If not, when is he projected to join them?

Scott Powers
  (2:16 PM)

Ryan, it's a numbers game with the defensemen. They already have eight up. Clendening may get called up to be a Black Ace late in the season, but he probably won't see any time this year. I think he'll get a chance to make the team next year with Brookbank's contract coming up.

Tom (Grayslake)

We know Q changes lines often, but Bickell entrenched on the 3rd line isn't what we expected after his big signing. I figure we should be patient and let it all play out, but I'm curious what you think of the signing near the halfway point of the season. (I know he's been hurt, so it is kind of tough to gauge).

Scott Powers
  (2:20 PM)

Tom, I don't think the Blackhawks gave him the deal in the offseason to be on the third line. He got his chance to play with Kane and Toews early in the year, and he didn't capitalize on it. He had a real nice stretch at one point, but he's been inconsistent for the most part. I think he'll be on that third line for awhile now. His time to shine has always been the playoffs, so maybe he turns it on then again. If he does, then he's worth all that money.

Tom (Pingree Grove, Illinois)

Hi, Scott: How much longer approximately before Corey Crawford returns? Merry Christmas. Thank you.

Scott Powers
  (2:21 PM)

Tom, Crawford was expected to get back on the ice this week. I would think sometime in the next few weeks he could ready. Maybe before or after New Year's.

Andrew (Marietta)

Scott,What percent chance do you give the Blackhawks of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions this year? Also, is Antti Raanta worth keeping long term? Will he be a good backup to Crawford as a Blackhawk for a long-term tenure with Chicago?

Scott Powers
  (2:24 PM)

Andrew, I don't know about a percentage. They're certainly the best or one of the best teams in the league right now. The playoffs are a different animal, and the best teams don't always win it. They have the pieces to do it, though. As for Raanta, he's a restricted free agent after this season, so I could see the Blackhawks signing him short term. If he keeps up the way he's playing, other teams will pursue him as a starter, and he'll probably be gone.

Rich (Chicago)

Hi Scott!With the Olympics coming up, do you think Coach Q will start to cut back ice time on the players who will be overseas in February?

Scott Powers
  (2:25 PM)

Rich, I would anticipate leading up and after the Olympics Quenneville would be careful about minutes. He talked about that this season and is aware of the situation.

skip (aurora)

What should hawks fan know about Jason LaBarbera and will we see him up with the Hawks anytime soon?

Scott Powers
  (2:26 PM)

Skip, the biggest thing is he has some NHL experience. His numbers aren't great, but he can step in and hold his own if it's necessary. The Blackhawks probably don't want to play him either, but he gives them more insurance in net. Simpson isn't ready now.

Steve (Skokie)

When is Crawford coming back? Will he immediately return to heavy workload? Raanta has earned more playing time at least, hasn't he?

Scott Powers
  (2:28 PM)

Steve, I do think Raanta's play will give Quennevile more confidence to rest Crawford throughout the rest of the season. Quenneville lost faith in Khabibulin and was just riding Crawford as much as he could. Crawford will still get a bulk of the starts, but he can take a day off when needed now.

Gib (Cali)

Saad is leading american's in plus minus...and hes been stellar even on the third line...Any chance for Sochi?

Scott Powers
  (2:30 PM)

Gib, I think Saad has a shot. His versatility has to be attractive to the U.S. team. He's solid offensively and defensively and can play on almost every line.

Dan (Elk Grove Village, IL)

Based on the fact that Brandon Pirri can't seem to stick with the big club and is a RFA at season's end, do you see a possible trade with him on the horizon or is he a Hawk for the forseeable future?

Scott Powers
  (2:32 PM)

Dan, Bowman said recently Morin and Pirri were in the plans for the future, but I could see how the Blackhawks resign both of them after the season and deal them for draft picks or other prospects. I just don't know where they fit in going forward, especially after acquiring Versteeg and Teravainen arriving.

Michael (Chicago)

What do the Hawks do with Khabibulin once he is healthy??

Scott Powers
  (2:34 PM)

Michael, Bowman said today he expects Khabibulin to be back playing this season. I don't know if I believe that, though. It sounds like he's out for a while still with the injury. I guess I don't really have an answer for you. I don't see how they can go back to him if Raanta continues to play like this.

Jim (Chicago)

Hey scott, depth is one of the reasons we won the cup. with shaw scoring the winner in 1, seabrook in game 4, and bickell/bolland in game 6. Seems that a few pieces aren't falling into place like bickell, shaw and morin/smith/pirri. Is there a trade out there for us? or was versteeg the extent of our moves this year?

Scott Powers
  (2:37 PM)

Jim, I would give Bickell some time. He wasn't producing on the top line, but he was doing fine enough for that third line. Plus, I think he'll get going more now too with Versteeg or Saad playing on that line. I do think Versteeg was the one major move for the year. Teravainen could give them an offensive boost if needed in April as well.

moose (out west)

Kruuger's faceoff percentage has gone way up which is awesome. Mention this and everyone says Yanic Perreault. What about Shaw...he is still a liability in the dot. Has he been working with Perreault?

Scott Powers
  (2:39 PM)

Moose, they all have been working with Yanic. It's clicked for Kruger, but certainly not for Shaw. He's still in the low 40s. Quenneville has been trying his best to give Toews and Kruger as many as faceoffs as he can. Handzus is also pretty reliable there.

Greg (Des Moines)

I know the trade deadline isn't until March, but do you think the Hawks will try to move Raanta before the trade deadline? If so, what do you think they will be looking for in return?

Scott Powers
  (2:41 PM)

Greg, I don't think there's any upside in moving Raanta this season. They need a reliable backup for a number of reasons, especially if Crawford gets hurt. They can match anyone for Raanta after the season because he's a restricted free agent.

Troy (Lyndon)

The Hawks still scare me against a big, physical team like LA or St. Louis. Any chance of picking up a little more muscle by season's end?

Scott Powers
  (2:43 PM)

Troy, this was the exact same fear last year by most people and didn't end up mattering. I don't think it does again this season. It's not as if the lineup changed that much from year to year. I do think the Blues are a better team than a season ago, but I don't think adding another enforcer gives the Blackhawks the edge.

Craig (Lisle)

Are there any trade rumors that are heating up with the holiday roster freeze coming up ?

Scott Powers
  (2:44 PM)

Craig, not around the Blackhawks at least. Bowman said the roster would likely remain as is going into the freeze.

moose (out west)

It looks like to me like we play 1-1-2 on the PK with the top 2 guys rotating. This seems to leave the lanes open and a lot of pucks get through. Why not just play a 4 man box and try get higher on the points?

Scott Powers
  (2:46 PM)

Moose, it does seem like Quenneville has been a bit stubborn with that 1-1-2 this season. I still don't think Handzus is the best pairing with Kruger either. I went back the other day and watched last year's PK and they were so much more aggressive with Frolik and Kruger. They were getting out to those points quickly, disrupting the puck and often creating chances the other way.

Kevin (CA)

Scott, Shaw is having a small bump in the road with taking too many penalties, etc and all of a sudden people are down on him. I think that's crazy. He's not in Q's doghouse at this point is he?

Scott Powers
  (2:48 PM)

Kevin, no, not at all. Shaw did a better job with the penalties last game and has been pretty good this season at walking that line. He's drawing more penalties than he's taking, and that third line has been so consistently solid this year. That has a lot to do with Shaw's all-around play.

Will (Cincinnati)

Scott, any chance we see Teuvo Teravainen as a Black Ace this season? Do you think he has the talent to be a Calder candidate next season?

Scott Powers
  (2:51 PM)

Will, I think Teravainen could play for the Blackhawks in April if they decide to bring him over. It's all about whether they need him. He could certainly be a Calder candidate next season, too. I think he steps in as a top-6 forward next season. Playing beside Kane would give him an advantage.

Katie (NYC)

Scott, the powerplay has been on fire this season after struggling last year, even though the personnel is pretty much the same. What do you think has been the biggest change? Puck movement? Shaw better in front of the net?

Scott Powers
  (2:52 PM)

Katie, some of those factors you mentioned are part of it. Shaw's presence has been key. They are moving the puck more. It's also been as simple as taking more shots. They're no longer waiting for the perfect shot. Sharp and Keith have especially been good at getting shots on net from the point.

Bill (Canada)

Scott, In your opinion, what kind of a season is Towes having?

Scott Powers
  (2:54 PM)

Bill, some of Toews' numbers like faceoffs and takeaways are down from last year, but he's still been solid all around. I think he, Sharp and Hossa have consistently created offense, and he's been good on the PK and power plays.

Tim (Canada)

Scott, Would you agree that a strong PK is much more beneficial than a strong PP, given the results of last year.

Scott Powers
  (2:56 PM)

Tim, it sort of feels like they're cancelling each other out. I know it's proven you don't need a successful power play to win a Cup. I'd have to go back and look at the PK numbers to see if that's the truth as well. I'll try to do that in the next week.

Becky ((Chicago, IL))

Hi Scott. The Blackhawks have played more games than any other team in the league so far this year. Do you think that will benefit them later when they will have more time to rest than other teams, or will they lose momentum that they sometimes get by playing games so close together? (Such as being able to rebound from the Toronto game the very next night by beating the Kings.)

Scott Powers
  (2:58 PM)

Becky, I think some of those games will even out once the Olympic break comes, and it won't matter as much. The Blackhawks concern then will be all the players they have going to Sochi. I think Quenneville will be careful about the amount of minutes he's playing those guys going in and coming out of the Olympics.

Scott Powers
  (2:59 PM)

Thanks to everyone for the questions today. I apologize if I missed anyone. Please feel free to email me at spowers@espnchicago.com and I promise to get back to you. Have a good weekend.