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Boudreau on Wild's Fourth Line: 'Wide Open Spaces'

Halfway through camp, battle remains fluid

by Phil Ervin /

Wild on lineup spots for grabs

Wild on lineup spots for grabs

Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau, Ryan Carter and Tyler Graovac talk about the lineup spots that are up for grabs

  • 01:42 •

MINNEAPOLIS -- Country artists the Dixie Chicks released the album "Wide Open Spaces" in 1998. It featured hits such as "There's Your Trouble" and "You Were Mine" and reached diamond status after selling nearly 14 million units. 

It also teed up a perfect analogy for Bruce Boudreau to use in characterizing his fourth line a week into the Wild's training camp.

"That's the first thing I thought of," the Wild's new coach said Friday after practice at the University of Minnesota's Ridder Arena. "I think that would be a correct assessment. I told the guys before [Thursday night's preseason game at Winnipeg], 'I told you guys before the start of the season, there's positions to be had.'

"No one's jumped out and taken possession of it yet."

Tweet from @mnwild: Bruce Boudreau, big @dixiechicks fan. #mnwild

The options are plentiful.

First-round picks Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Tuch are in the mix, along with recent Iowa Wild stalwarts Tyler Graovac and Kurtis Gabriel. Then there's veteran Ryan Carter, a week into a professional tryout with the team for whom he played the past two NHL seasons.

Boudreau said Tuch had his best game of the preseason Thursday at Winnipeg. The 20-year-old Boston College product and 2014 No. 18 overall pick was frequently around the Jets' net and registered six shots.

The performance came following an in-depth, one-on-one film review with assistant coach John Anderson.

Anderson will hold a similar regroup with Graovac. Like Tuch, the 23-year-old has the prototypical build of a power forward. Unlike Tuch, Graovac has yet to quite find his feet, he says.

"I've got more in me," said Graovac, who's played in five NHL games the past two years. "My legs are starting to get there."

Literally speaking, Carter's legs have been there since 2007. Nearly a decade and five teams later, he's proven himself a valuable fourth-liner who's not flashy but doesn't make many mistakes, either.

Boudreau says he'd like to see more from him. Carter doesn't disagree.

"I think there needs to be a level of consistency and battle," Carter said. "I think those are probably the two most important components right now -- and awareness. I think you've got to be sharp. That's what I'm getting [from Boudreau]: 'You're going to make mistakes out there, but don't make the same mistakes again and again.'"

Eriksson Ek and Kurtis Gabriel have had their moments this preseason, too, whether in games or practices. Each player has one more week and up to three more preseason contests -- starting Sunday against Carolina -- to separate themselves.

No word on if Boudreau will be listening to Dixie Chicks while evaluating film and making final decisions.

"I am [a big fan], as a matter of fact," Boudreau said. The coach also revealed "Seinfeld" is one of his favorite shows.

Scandella practices

After being scratched late Thursday due to what Boudreau called a "small tweak," defenseman Marco Scandella practiced at full capacity Friday.

Niederreiter returns

After helping Team Europe to the World Cup of Hockey 2016 finals in Toronto, Nino Niederreiter was scheduled to fly into the Twin Cities on Friday.

Boudreau wasn't sure when the Swiss forward's first practice will be. The Wild is back at Xcel Energy Center for a workout Saturday and also will skate Sunday morning ahead of that day's 5 p.m. matchup with the Hurricanes.

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