NHL '11 preview: EA makes faceoffs more realistic with help from Jarret Stoll


stoll faceoff.jpgThe “next generation” of Electronic Arts’ NHL series might be subject to a bit of nitpicking, but they’re still among the best hockey video games ever made.

With the 2K Series bowing out of competition for at least a year (except on Nintendo’s Wii console), some people were worried that EA’s polygonal puck monopoly would mean the company would rest on its laurels.

While the previews I’ve read so far are very limited, I’m not sure there are going to be many “huge” upgrades for the game. That being said, I’d say the games only really need “tweaks” rather than wholesale changes, anyway.

One area that looks to receive a makeover, though, is the game’s faceoff system. Faceoffs have always been pretty lacking in their games; it seems like the winner is determined more by an invisible coin toss than anything else. (Of course, faceoffs are basically a 50-50 proposition in real life, but video games should always test your skills, right?).

It seems like the company is taking some steps to make the faceoff side more realistic or at least more nuanced. The video game channel G4 provides more on the new system, plus a few other tweaks in their “first look” preview.

The game will have much-improved face-off control, offering players several different grips, as well as actual stick control during those moments with the right thumbstick. Also new to the game this year will be the addition of the entire 60-team Canadian Hockey League, as well as the most-requested feature from players: broken sticks. Now you can break sticks, and heads, as much as the game will allow.

(Quick aside: broken sticks? Sounds like that might lead to some broken controllers. Definitely not from me, though, because I’m an adult and never get mad at video games. Yup.)

Finally, here is a video that details how Jarret Stoll helped the development team improve its faceoff mechanics. It’s funny that they used Stoll because the Los Angeles Kings center is one of my go-to guys in the digital circle, aside from maybe Rod Brind’amour and Manny Malhotra. Check out the video below for more on how he helped. (Plus, Heidi Androl is involved. She’s pretty cool.)

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner for the Stoll video.)

Memorial Cup champion goalie Appleby signs with Devils

Ken Appleby
The Canadian Press via AP
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Ken Appleby never got drafted, but his efforts during the New Jersey Devils’ training camp have earned him an entry-level contract, per the Bergen Record.

Although no team saw it fit to take him before the preseason, the 20-year-old is coming off of a very strong season. He had a 2.08 GAA and .924 save percentage in 50 games with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He went on to lead them to a Memorial Cup championship and earned the the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the tournament’s top goalie.

Appleby is the fifth goaltender the Devils have under contract after Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, and Yann Danis. He’ll likely begin the season in the ECHL.

Alexandre Goulet and Jacob Sweeney also participated in the Devils’ training camp on an amateur tryout basis, but both of them have been released.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL stars weigh in on McDavid

Connor McDavid
The Canadian Press via AP
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Some of the NHL’s top players discuss Connor McDavid‘s potential and the hype surrounding him. (Toronto Sun)

While we’re on the subject, Wayne Gretzky recalls what it was like for him going into the NHL and what’s in store for McDavid. (Edmonton Sun)

Sam Gagner is about to start a key season in his career. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

It’s time for the Washington Capitals to make some tough calls, particularly when it comes to Derek Roy. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

With Raffi Torres hearing scheduled for today, here’s a look back at his suspension history. (San Jose Mercury News)

The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten their championship rings. (NHL.com)