Screenshot indicates that EA Sports’ NHL 12 will include Winter Classic

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While EA Sports’ NHL ’11 was the only big hockey video game on the market – at least on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360* – its quality didn’t suffer from that lack of competition. Simply put, the game gave hockey fans just about everything they could ask for … but there were a few things it did lack.

One of those “How did they leave that out?” features was a mode that allows players to simulate the Winter Classic experience. While EA Sports didn’t come right out and say it, the screenshot you see above says it all: NHL ’12 will include the annual outdoor event in some form.

They didn’t reveal many specific details about how the Winter Classic will be utilized in the game itself, though.

For one thing, it’s natural to ask if the game will strive to use authentic Winter Classic locations. Video game Web site Kotaku tackled that subject a bit, explaining that EA probably wouldn’t be able to use baseball ballparks in the game since 2K Sports owns the licensing rights thanks to their MLB series.

That could prohibit NHL ’12 from using Wrigley Park and Fenway Park, the locales for the 2009 and 2010 Winter Classic games. The 2011 game featured the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins took place at Heinz Field, but reports indicate that the 2012 edition will take place at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, so it’ll be interesting to see how that might be handled.

Kotaku also points out some other interesting details revealed from that screenshot, via the Operation Sports comments.

Other details of the frame, per the hawkeyes from Operation Sports: The net can be jarred from its moorings; realistic goalie contact, and goalie helmets flying off. Anyone see anything else?

However those specific stadium/ballpark details are worked out, the ability to re-play Winter Classic games (and perhaps create your own?) should be a nice thrill for hockey fans. Click here for a ridiculously blown up copy of that screenshot from Operation Sports, if you want to pick apart every tantalizing detail (look a the snow!).

Kotaku discussed other rumors, including a rumor that the game’s ship date that would be “closer to NHL opening day.” Normally sports video games are released about a month before a given season begins, but that trend might end with the next Madden game and the NHL series could follow suit. Personally, that later ship date would be bum many people out since those video games are often a nice outlet for fans who miss their sport badly.

Still, if it makes the game just a little bit better, then the wait could be worth it. Kotaku indicates that more details could emerge next week, so we’ll let you know more when extra information drops.

* Other platforms, particularly the Nintendo Wii, had their own different hockey-related titles.

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.