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

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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.)

Video: Mika Zibanejad’s check to Tyler Bozak’s head

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Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).

The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.

You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.

It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.

Malcolm Subban hospitalized after taking puck to throat

Malcolm Subban
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Scary stuff on Saturday: multiple reporters (including the Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy) note that Malcolm Subban was taken to a hospital after a puck struck his throat during warm-ups.

There’s no word yet on Subban’s condition beyond that he was taken away in an ambulance.

The AHL’s Providence Bruins seem like they’ve been left scrambling for a backup goalie in Subban’s absence.

Subban stated days ago that he’s taken some significant steps forward during the 2015-16 season.

 

Senators get Kyle Turris back on Saturday

Ottawa Senators' Kyle Turris celebrates his game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens during overtime of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Ottawa Senators cannot pin all of their troubles on missing their No. 1 center, yet it probably feels like a huge relief to get him back.

After missing six games with his latest injury, Kyle Turris is in the lineup as the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Again, it’s not all a matter of missing Turris, but the Senators went 1-5-0 during his six-game absence. They’ve really been falling since late December, to be honest.

Will Turris be enough to stop the bleeding? Perhaps to an extent, but the Senators are in for a serious battle if they hope to fight through the East bubble.

Habs’ win was a showcase for P.K. Subban, Connor McDavid

Montreal Canadiens defensemen  P.K. Subban (76) holds off Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.

Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.

Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.

Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:

From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.

Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?

The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.

That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.

If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.