NHL 2K6 (Playstation 2)*

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After winning critical acclaim and a larger market share with its previous year's edition, the NHL 2K series returns to the ice for 2006, with a release that comes just prior to the real-life sport's return to play -- following the league's widely bemoaned lock-out hiatus in the 2004-2005 season.

NHL 2K6 introduces an "On-the-Fly Coaching" system, designed to allow gamers to give basic strategic commands to their entire line at once. On offence, players may be coached to pinch the defensive formation, or to crash the net when the goalie is having trouble holding on to his rebounds. On defense, the line can be ordered to fall back into tight protection around the goal, or to spread out to try to move the puck out of the zone at almost any cost.

Another prominent new game mechanic concerns players filling their roles on the ice. Certain players may be designated as "Enforcers," as noted by a red "E" icon. With enough hard hits and aggressive checks, Enforcers can intimidate players on the opposing team into performing below their normal abilities -- they'll be noted by a blue "I" (for "intimidated") icon. Of course, too many aggressive moves will draw penalties, and leave the Enforcer's team a man down.

In addition, a new "ProControl" scheme allows players to focus on passing and puck movement, and the right-stick initiated "Intense Contact Control" (dirty tricks) system from the previous year's game returns. Also returning in NHL 2K6 are fan favorite features such as franchise management, professional presentation, and full representation of all the teams and players of the league, as based on roster status shortly before the game's release.