NHL 12 demo impressions roundup, plus a digital goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo

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While I’ve only had the chance to mess around with EA Sports’ NHL 12 demo for about an hour or so, many others have been able to pour over the preview and provide painstaking accounts of their likes and dislikes with the far-from-finished product. The demo’s been available since August 23 (on both Xbox Live and Playstation Network) so I feel like people have had enough time to give it a shot and digest some of the changes.

Demos tend to leave me a little bit flat since you only get a little taste of what a full game will feel like, but others managed to pinpoint differences both big and small. Here’s a little gallery of some of the more prominent bits of feedback about the demo. Feel free to provide your own thoughts and/or links in the comments.

Doug Miller at Kukla’s Korner went in-depth with his impressions a day after the demo was released, with high praise for most of the changes made by EA. Miller seemed most impressed with the game’s artificial intelligence (or in layman’s terms, the way computer players operated).

This year, there are a combination of several key things, which combined, all go a very long way into making NHL 12 feel very new and refreshing. With the new full contact physics, full balance control, anticipation AI, combined with some new, more realistic puck physics, make NHL 12 feel like a vast improvement across the board in general gameplay when compared to NHL 11.

Andrew Dyce of Game Rant provides a more concise but well-written account of some of the changes, keying in on many of the same things Miller did. Dyce does a great job of explaining how different it feels to shoot in the game and how the puck seems to do a better job of behaving in ways that resemble the real-life game.

Where past games equated a slap shot to a gun being fired, traveling off a stick faster than the eye could see, NHL 12 goes in a very different direction. Sticks are no longer puck-cannons, as they must first cradle, then fire the projectiles more accurately. the shots themselves no longer seem like merely a game mechanism, but an exercise of the game’s physics engine. As a result, the stick seems far more active and responsive to player inputs, especially when in close to the net.

Once the puck leaves the blade though, it becomes subject to the laws of physics in a way that we have yet to see. The puck isn’t being blasted at the goalie, but simply being directed toward the net, with deflections and bounces occurring far more frequently. It’s hard to describe, but players familiar with past games will notice the difference immediately.

Dan at “All U Need” provided a lengthy breakdown of the demo that was mostly positive as well. While he thought that dekes and some of the hitting felt a bit off, he raved about the improved passing, physics, tweaked graphics and the general feeling that one-timers just felt good.

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Ultimately, it seems like the demo is generating a lot of praise, but the $60 question will be: are the changes worth it – particularly for people who already own NHL 11? I generally tend to get a lot of value out of sports games since online competition usually provides something new (and often infuriating), but in following with the tradition of year-to-year sports game updates, the tweaks are a bit on the subtle side.

There might not be a ton of updates now that the legends have been revealed and the demos have been released, but we’ll keep an eye on things and provide a review of the game once it releases. In the mean time, enjoy two more videos of the game.

First, the demo trailer via Game Rant.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Lastly, the slightly awkward looking but irresistible goalie fight between Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas (H/T to Puck Daddy).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Now that’s what I don’t call pumping someone’s tires.

Coyotes add MacLean and Allen to coaching staff

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John MacLean will, indeed, be an assistant coach on Rick Tocchet’s staff in Arizona, as reported yesterday.

So too will Scott Allen.

“We are very pleased to have John and Scott join the Coyotes organization,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a release. “Both individuals bring a wealth of hockey knowledge and coaching experience to our team and we are confident that they will be great additions to Head Coach Rick Tocchet’s staff.”

MacLean — who had a short, unsuccessful stint as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2010 — was last behind an NHL bench as an assistant on Kirk Muller’s staff in Carolina from 2011-14.

Allen spent last season as an assistant in Florida, before being let go to make way for Bob Boughner’s new staff.

The Coyotes also announced Mike Van Ryn as the new head coach of their AHL affiliate in Tucson. Van Ryn will be assisted by John Slaney and Steve Potvin.

Mark Lamb, last year’s head coach in Tucson, and Mark Hardy, Lamb’s assistant, will not be back.

Lamb was only hired a year ago; however, he got the job thanks in part to a previous working relationship with Dave Tippett. So it’s no surprise to hear Lamb won’t be back — especially after the Roadrunners missed the playoffs.

Related: John MacLean could reportedly join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

Welcome Nick Holden to the trade rumor mill

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Last summer, when Nick Holden was traded from Colorado to the Rangers, Patrick Roy called Alain Vigneault to say, “You just got one of my better defensemen.”

Now it seems that Holden may be on the trading block again.

From the New York Post, in the wake of Mika Zibanejad‘s contract extension:

The Blueshirts are projected to start the season with just $445,556 of cap space if they carry eight defensemen (including Alexei Bereglazov) and 14 forwards (including Andersson and Boo Nieves with Jesper Fast on IR). The Rangers are expected to attempt to deal defenseman Nick Holden ($1.65 million) in order to bulk up in the middle, if possible.

Holden played 80 games for the Rangers last season, scoring 11 goals with 23 assists. The 30-year-old is signed for one more year before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

If Holden is traded, the Rangers could go into next season with a top four of Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei. That would leave Marc Staal, Bereglazov, Anthony DeAngelo, and perhaps even Neal Pionk to fight for minutes on the bottom pairing.

What’s unclear is Holden’s value on the trade market. After all, the Rangers only gave up a fourth-round draft pick to get him from Colorado. Has his value risen significantly since?

Johnny Hockey: ‘I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong’

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Johnny Gaudreau made headlines last week when he went on Philadelphia radio and said it would be “sweet” to play for the Flyers one day.

Gaudreau — a South Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Flyers, but currently stars for the Calgary Flames — has now been offered a chance to clarify a few things about that interview.

“I think if you ask any player in the NHL if they’d like to play in their hometown at some point they’d all say it would be pretty sweet,” Gaudreau told the Courier-Post in a Q&A. “You’ve got friends, you’ve got family, you’ve got kids you went to school with, you’ve got teachers, you name it. You’ve got people that will be supporting you. The people support me down here, like it’s crazy down here. I’m just really fortunate they follow me up in Calgary.

“I love Calgary, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city and they’re so passionate about our team. It’s a real hockey city. I really enjoy it up there, don’t get me wrong, but I think if you ask any player if he wants to play in his hometown they’d say it would be pretty cool to do that.

“I’ve still got five more years on my contract and who knows…if we’re playing well up here in Calgary I could end up staying another four or five years there because I love the city so much. It’s tough to have all those articles come out when it’s something so small, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

It’s certainly possible that Gaudreau opts to explore unrestricted free agency when his contract expires. But he doesn’t have that option until 2022.

For now, Gaudreau’s excited about the next few years in Calgary, where the Flames are trending the right way, possibly soon into legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

Related: Stability, Stanley Cup aspirations ‘a breath of fresh air’ for Mike Smith

Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

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Save for the loss of Ben Lovejoy, the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2016-17 looked a heck of a lot like the Penguins of 2015-16.

Both those teams won the Stanley Cup, of course.

But the Pens of 2017-18, while still boasting superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will have to attempt a three-peat without some key pieces from the 2017 run.

Gone are Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey, the latter of whom proved a savvy pickup by GM Jim Rutherford at the trade deadline.

It’s also possible that Matt Cullen opts for retirement.

True, the Penguins added Matt Hunwick in free agency, and they don’t expect to be without Kris Letang again next spring.

But for goalie Matt Murray, winning it all in 2018 seems a larger challenge.

“Obviously it’s not easy to win at all in this league, especially with the salary cap and the turnover that teams go through. Last year we were lucky that we didn’t lose too many guys and we had a lot of the same guys come back,” Murray told SooToday.com.

“This year it’s a little bit different. We lost some key pieces and we’re going to have a new look going into this season. But I think we’ve added some key pieces as well and I think we’re in really good shape. Of course it’s going to be difficult, but I think if there’s a team that can do it, we can do it.”

For any team that loses important players, the key to success is usually found in the organization’s youth. Enter forwards Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese. If those two can become contributors by the playoffs, it would sure help.

Rutherford will also have to come through by finding a new third-line center. That’s no easy task given the importance of the position. Bonino was a tremendous bargain for the Pens, but he’s in Nashville now.

Related: Pens can’t ‘panic’ to replace Bonino