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NHL 12 produces biggest launch week in series’ history

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For the most part, critics raved about NHL 12, the latest installment in EA Sports’ popular hockey video game series. That’s great and all, but critical success doesn’t always allow companies to reap huge profits; simply look at the ratings for the defunct but beloved sitcom “Arrested Development” if you need to drive the point home.

Whether you pinpoint the reasoning based on strong word of mouth, a creative wave of marketing (including installments regarding the title’s nine legends) or the recent gains made by the sport itself, NHL 12 came charging out of the gate as far as sales are concerned. EA announced that the game broke first week records for the series, with the European version receiving a Sept. 9 release while the North American copy came out on Sept. 12.

Estimates indicate that more than 451,000 copies were sold, bringing in more than $27 million in retail. Chris Pereira of 1up.com reports that EA hopes to capitalize on this success by releasing a “free-to-play” Facebook game called NHL Superstars in October. (I have to admit I cringe a bit at the idea without knowing the details, as it makes me picture a hockey version of incessant “Farmville” updates. Hopefully it will be more promising than that, though.)

Here are more details about the strong first week for the game.

Electronic Arts has announced that NHL 12 enjoyed a “record-breaking launch.” After its release on September 13 in North America, EA’s internal figures peg it as having the biggest launch week in the franchise’s history. Sales were up 19 percent in North America and Europe (where it launched on September 9) as compared with last year, resulting in it bringing in more than $27 million at retail worldwide.

Record amounts of time was spent playing online, too; over 6.9 million online matches took place between September 13 and September 19. That’s the most during one week in the franchise’s history and 17 percent more than last year.

Hopefully those impressive figures will encourage EA Sports to maintain their aggressive (if subtle) approach to improving the NHL titles from NHL 12 to NHL 13 … although some might believe it’s hard to say what, exactly, they need to improve.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”