Some thoughts on the recently released NHL '11 demo

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EA Sports recently released a demo for its upcoming game NHL ’11 on both the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, which is set to release on September 7. I thought I’d pass along a few notes about the small sample of the company’s popular hockey title.

  • Now, I haven’t played a TON of the demo yet, but I didn’t see a broken stick just yet. That, to me, indicates that the new “feature” probably won’t occur too often in the final game. Obviously, the jury is still out on that one, though. I’m on record of saying that it’s not the greatest idea, even if it is a commendable attempt at simulating the real-life game.
  • It seems that my bread-and-butter one-timers have either been vetted or I just need to change my timing on the evil goal scoring play. If the programmers indeed made the game’s artificial intelligence strong enough to thwart that move, I’m in big digi-trouble.
  • I was worried the new faceoff system would be really clunky, but to EA’s credit, it seems like they know how to integrate changes pretty well. (They did a great job of adding “board play” last year, although I think that you could argue it was almost a bit too “magnetized.”) Instead of being clunky, it appears that the changes will simply give players more option in the circle. Again, these are early observations, but so far so good.
  • The game looks fine, although it only looks a tad bit shinier than any X-Box 360 NHL game. The series really hasn’t gotten much of a face lift since NHL ’08, really.
  • One interesting addition is “The Ultimate Hockey League.” The finer points of the new mode are a bit complex, but you basically collect “player cards” to build an online team that depends on chemistry and development to improve and grow. I’m not sure how easily troublemakers will be able to cheat its system, but if it is balanced well, it could be an addictive distraction for people who prefer playing a traditional team vs. team game rather than the “Be a Pro” setup of following a single position player. 
  • While I didn’t notice an enormous difference in the physics of the game right away, it could be a nice improvement from the predictable puck movement of previous titles.

So, my gut reaction is to say that NHL ’11 will be an improved title but whether or not it justifies a purchase – especially for people who already own NHL ’10 – remains to be seen. Stick with Pro Hockey Talk this summer as we’ll keep following all the latest hockey video game news.

Report: Ehrhoff headed to Bruins on a PTO

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The Boston Bruins were under some serious pressure this summer to improve their group of defensemen.

That didn’t happen.

With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.

In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.

Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.

Ehrhoff played last season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, and was placed on waivers in February while with the L.A. Kings, before he was traded to Chicago. Age and injuries have caught up to him, and he never did fit with the Kings’ style under Darryl Sutter.

He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.

He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.

Again, that was five years ago.

Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs

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The Buffalo Sabres will not have goalie Robin Lehner in their lineup Friday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As per the Sabres, Lehner is dealing with a forearm contusion and will not dress for this preseason game. Jason Kasdorf will start in net for Buffalo.

Members of the media in Buffalo have noted that if this were a regular season game, Lehner would be able to play.

Lehner had ankle surgery in March, ending his 2015-16 season. His ankle issues dated even further back, to the beginning of last season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain.

The Sabres have some exciting young players on their roster, especially up front, but they need Lehner to be healthy if they are to take a run at a playoff spot this season.

Behind him sit Linus Ullmark, Anders Nilsson and Kasdorf, who have a combined 73 games of NHL experience between them all.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.