Admitted gamer Steven Stamkos will be the cover star for NHL ’12

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EA Sports announced that Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos will be the cover star for their next hockey video game NHL ’12. This breaks the run of Chicago Blackhawks stars who graced the series’ covers in the last two years (Jonathan Toews for NHL ’11; Patrick Kane for NHL ’10).

One of the appealing by-products of the post-lockout era’s surge in young stars is their familiarity with video games. Most of them have probably grown up playing hockey video games; one can only imagine the ribbing a player might get for having a pitiful speed rating. (Toews, Kane and Stamkos aren’t much older than the seminal NHL ’94 title , after all.)

Stamkos ranks as one of those guys who played hockey video games growing up. In fact, he admitted that it was often on his wish list at Christmas time and he excitedly bought the first NHL title that featured his likeness.

“I was a big gamer, especially as a kid,” Stamkos said. “I asked for it every Christmas. You dream of playing in the NHL one day but you never really dream of being on the cover of the NHL video games, especially the most popular one. My friends are just as excited.”

Stamkos said that he doesn’t know his player rating just yet, but noticed some flaws in the game of his polygonal counterpart.

“My faceoffs weren’t very good in the game, so maybe I’ll take a hint to get better [in that area],” Stamkos said. “I haven’t checked out the ratings system yet, but usually when you’re on the cover you get a good one.”

Every now and then, a cover player doesn’t have an outstanding rating in a hockey video game, but you usually have to be at an elite level to grace a game cover in the first place.

The cover art might bring a surprise for fans who haven’t been paying attention to uniform-related news: he’s wearing the new blue and white getup that the Lightning will wear in the 2011-12 season. The game is expected to be released on September 13, giving hockey-starved fans a needed distraction a few weeks before the beginning of next season.

Crosby to celebrate 30th birthday with Stanley Cup in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his province.

In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School, Crosby said he would hoist the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.

“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”

The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday.

Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.

“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said Wednesday.

Crosby has shown off the Stanley Cup twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.

Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.

Arbitration hearing looming for Arvidsson, who broke out in big way last year

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Viktor Arvidsson wants a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, while the Nashville Predators are countering with a two-year deal worth $5.5 million ($2.75 million AAV).

That’s the situation with an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The two sides could still reach a deal before each case is heard.

Arvidsson, 24, broke out in a big way last year, scoring 31 goals during the regular season, then helping the Preds to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

But Nashville needs to be careful with its cap situation, because Ryan Johansen also needs a new contract, and he won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Arvidsson just wrapped up his entry-level contract.

Tatar goes to arbitration — are his days in Detroit numbered?

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Unlike the St. Louis Blues, who struck a last-minute deal with Colton Parayko, the Detroit Red Wings were unable to come to terms with Tomas Tatar, meaning an arbitration hearing went ahead today.

Tatar had 25 goals in 82 games last season. The 26-year-old forward can only be awarded a one-year deal, as he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

So unless the two sides can come together on a long-term contract before the arbitrator rules, Tatar may end up becoming a trade chip for GM Ken Holland to play.

After all, the Wings will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs next year, and they can’t afford to lose Tatar for nothing.

The Athletic’s Craig Custance believes that Tatar will be awarded a one-year deal worth “around $4.8 million.”

Tatar has said that a one-year deal would likely mean his “last season in Detroit.”

Related: Wings, Tatar over $1 million apart as arbitration looms

Blues sign Parayko to five-year, $27.5 million contract

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The St. Louis Blues and Colton Parayko were scheduled to have an arbitration hearing this morning, but it sounds like that will no longer be necessary.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the two sides have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension worth a total of $27.5 million ($5.5 million AAV).

Update: It’s official.

“We are pleased to have Colton as part of our group for the next five seasons,” said GM Doug Armstrong in a release.  “He has made tremendous progress over the last two years and possesses all the tools to be a very good NHL defenseman.”

Heading into arbitration, Parayko was reportedly looking for a one-year deal worth$4.85 million, while St. Louis was offering two years at $7 million total.

Obviously, the Blues paid a little more on this contract, but that’s because they were able to “buy” some of Parayko’s free-agent years.

The 24-year-old just completed his second season with the Blues. He managed to four goals, 35 points and 32 penalty minutes in 81 games.

Parayko also saw his average ice-time increase from his first year to his second year, as he played just over 21 minutes per game in 2016-17.

On top of his two solid seasons in St. Louis, he also opened some eyes at this year’s World Hockey Championship, where he had three goals and seven points in six games for Team Canada. He averaged 24 minutes of ice-time during the tournament, and Canada went on to win silver.