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Graovac Turns Camp Vision Into Roster Spot; Haula, Fontaine Return To Practice

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

As training camp opened, Tyler Graovac said he had a vision of what making the Minnesota Wild would look like.

On Tuesday, that vision became a reality.

"The chairs were a little different than I visualized," Graovac said with a laugh. "But besides that, I'm kind of used to everything, and how it works here. I've been here since I was 18, and I'm not used to them saying 'you're going to stick.'"

Graovac was told on Tuesday that he made the Wild's opening night roster. He'll center a line between left wing Thomas Vanek, and right wing Charlie Coyle.

"This morning as soon as I got in the dressing room—I was kind of expecting it last week, just waiting for them to pull me into the room," Graovac said. "Every morning I've kind of been waking up and thinking, 'Grao, get to the GM's office.' This morning was the time, and it was either a yes or a no, and it was a yes, and I'm looking forward to the start of the season."

After being challenged early in camp by Head Coach Mike Yeo, Graovac responded, and will now get an opportunity to continue to prove he belongs at this level.

"What he did very well was he demanded a roster spot," Yeo said. "He demanded that with his play, and the message is pretty clear: Just make sure you're doing the same."

Graovac was with the main group that practiced on Tuesday, along with two new faces in Justin Fontaine and Erik Halula. The two injured forwards had been skating on their own the past few days, but Tuesday was their first day back with the rest of the team. 

"Everything is back to normal," Haula said. "It was a little something that I wanted to take care of before the season starts so it doesn't get worse and I miss more time. Everything went well, and I'm ready to go."

Haula said he should be ready for the season opener on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.

"Actually his legs looked pretty good, and we had a pretty tough practice, and he was able to get through it, so that was a good sign," Yeo said.

Yeo said he didn't have a timetable for Fontaine's return, but that Fontaine had some work ahead of him to get back into playing form.

"I just know he unfortunately got hurt, and didn't have a whole lot underneath him," Yeo said. "I can just tell today he needs a little bit of time just so he's gets his timing, his conditioning, and even just the details back in his game."

The Wild trimmed its roster down to 25 on Tuesday by placing Fontaine on injured-reserve, assigning defenseman Mike Reilly to the AHL, placing forward Jordan Schroeder on waivers, and designated forward Grayson Downing as a injured, non-roster player.

The plan with Reilly all along had been to keep him in camp as long as possible, according to Yeo, who said this is all part of the rookie's development process.

"He's not in for the first game, and basically the message to [Reilly] was, this is not a long-term deal," Yeo said. "We don't know what's going to happen a week out from now, let alone two months, so we'll see how it plays."

Opening Night Viewing Party

To help ring in the new season, the Wild will be hosting a viewing party for the season-opener on Thursday at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul. The Wild open the season against the Colorado Avalanche at 8 p.m. CT. Gates at CHS Field will open at 6:45 p.m. The game will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.

More information on the event can be found here.

Taste Of The Wild

A new season means new dining options, and on Tuesday, media members were invited to try the new selections that will be offered during Minnesota Wild home games this season.

A photo gallery from the tasting can be found here.

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