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Forward Spots Available At Wild Training Camp

by Dan Myers / Minnesota Wild

When Chuck Fletcher was named general manager of the Minnesota Wild in May 2009, there was plenty of work to be done to rebuild a franchise whose foundation was crumbling.

Minnesota had little in the way of a prospect cupboard and its most popular player in franchise history, Marian Gaborik, was weeks away from signing with the New York Rangers.

With the Wild entering their fifth training camp with Fletcher at the helm, there should be legitimate competition for roster spots between a number of veterans and young players who gained experience last season. Among the top six, only left wing Zach Parise, center Mikko Koivu and right wing Jason Pominville are guaranteed much of anything.

They know they will be getting big minutes. Whether those minutes come as a line is yet to be seen. Wild coach Mike Yeo opened camp Thursday with that line intact.

The most intriguing roster decisions will come on Minnesota's second line, where a number of young players are competing for the three spots. Charlie Coyle, who spent much of his first season in the NHL last season as a right wing, enters camp in a battle with Mikael Granlund.

Should Granlund win it, it's likely the Wild would move Coyle back to the wing, where he could assume his spot on the top line with Parise and Koivu, play next to Granlund, or head to the third line.

"You never know what's going to happen or where they're going to need you to play," Coyle said. "If I keep playing my game, that's why they like me as a player. I've played right wing and center, so I'm pretty comfortable playing both positions."

Minnesota has a good battle shaping up for the second-line left wing spot between veteran Dany Heatley, second-year forward Jason Zucker and newcomer Nino Niederreiter, acquired in a draft-day trade from the New York Islanders in exchange for Cal Clutterbuck.

Heatley, returning from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the final few weeks of last season, is considered the favorite and came to camp in condition to battle for his spot.

"Having my time off the last months of the year and having to take care of the shoulder this summer, I was in the gym a lot more," Heatley said. "I feel pretty fresh coming into this camp.”

Entering a contract season, Heatley could find his way onto the team's top line, a move which likely would shuffle Pominville to the second grouping and open a left wing spot for Zucker or Niederreiter.

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