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EA Sports’ NHL ’12 bits: First video preview, release date set at September 13

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With the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs still in high gear, EA Sports is starting to allow some information about NHL ’12 to come out. Last week we discussed an intriguing screenshot that indicated that the Winter Classic would be playable in the game, but more information came through on Wednesday.

Before we delve deeper into some of the interesting information made available in that preview, it’s important to note the expected ship date is September 13. There was some concern that the NHL series would follow Madden’s example of shipping shortly before the beginning of the 2011-12 season, but it’s a relief to see that NHL ’12 will only come out about a week later than NHL ’11 did in 2010. (NHL ’11 released on September 7, 2010.)

Before we get into some of our analysis of the preview, check out the video EA Sports released on your own if you feel like it. (Video via Operation Sports.)

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Our take

A lot of people will get excited about the possibility of checking their friends’ (or online foes) players through the glass or into the benches, but the gameplay changes are probably the most exciting thing about the video.

Most precisely, seeing that goalies might have a little more personality is heartening. Too often goalies are either a) impregnable digital forces or b) gullible, padded masses of Swiss cheese. I haven’t enjoyed fighting in hockey video games since the Sega Genesis days so the goalie fights aren’t a huge draw for me, but it’s amusing that the feature will be added nonetheless.

The fact that the game is paying more attention to some of the “little things” like screening goalies (and goalies fighting through those screens) should help improve the depth of an already deep game. If there’s one thing NHL ’11 lacked it was a certain sense of spontaneity, so hopefully that will be fixed a bit in NHL ’12.

Additional takes

IGN points out that the game is expected to have a presentation style that will ape the league’s TV presentations. The preview details stats that might go a little deeper than previous editions, which could be an exciting thing for dorks such as myself.

Operation Sports points to an EA Sports press release that details the game’s revamped “Be a Pro” mode as another possible area of improvement.

In the revamped Be a Pro mode, experience the pursuit of greatness and legendary moments in your playing career, shatter historic records and cement yourself in NHL history. Additionally, the better you play, the more ice time you’ll get where you can simulate to your next shift so you’re always on the ice as you play out your entire career in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

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Overall, it seems promising. EA Sports might not feel much competition nipping at its heels (more on that later), but the company is still making some tweaks to a winning formula. Hopefully the company will continue to prove that it won’t just crank out “annual roster updates” for its great hockey franchise.

If they follow through on some of the promises they made in that preview, then NHL ’12 could be another great hockey title.

(Screenshot via Operation Sports.)

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.