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Wild, Boudreau Getting Acclimated as Camp Continues

Intense workouts, hands-on instruction accelerate learning curve

by Phil Ervin / Wild.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The left face-off circle at the University of Minnesota's Ridder Arena was considerably carved up Wednesday after the Wild's training camp practice here.

For nearly 20 minutes, players scrapped in no-holds-barred, one-on-one and two-on-two scenarios inside the circle. A goal and goalie were placed at each end. Ryan Suter battled against Erik Haula. Zach Parise took on Chris Stewart. Later, pairs of players worked their way into the mix.

The objective: score and defend, with minimal real estate in which to operate.

This is just one facet of a Bruce Boudreau-led practice -- spirited, full-check competition. Whether it's line rush drills or close-quarters clashes like Wednesday's workout, the Wild's new head coach is the loudest man on the ice.

"We're still in the heart of camp right now, and it's good to get guys battling, getting used to game-like situations and the competitive edge that's going to come with it," defenseman Matt Dumba said.

Tweet from @mnwild: Battle hard ���� pic.twitter.com/rl7TxAKOf2

But then there's the other side. The frequent whiteboard sessions between drills. The one-on-one, on-ice conversations between Boudreau or one of his assistants and players young and old alike. The emphasis on dialogue outside of the practice rink as Minnesota and its leadership familiarize themselves with one another.

"I want to get to know them," Boudreau said. "I want them to get to know me, get to know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it."

Likewise, the players are learning Boudreau. New drills, new systems, new terminology.

So far, so good, said left winger Zach Parise.

"They are intense," Parise said of Boudreau's practices. "You can tell there's a purpose to all the drills we're doing, a lot of teaching … it kind of forces us to play at a faster pace during practice.

"When you have a new coach, whether it's different strategies, small checks to a forecheck, they've done a good job of explaining, whether you're a first-year guy or you've been here for a little while, it's different. When they see something they need to fix, they stop practice, talk about it."

After returning from the World Cup of Hockey 2016, Parise, Suter, Haula, Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu all participated in their second practice of training camp Wednesday. Boudreau hasn't announced the roster for Thursday's preseason game at Winnipeg (although he did say Darcy Kuemper is likely to start in goal), but there's a chance all five will make their debuts soon; if not Thursday, then possibly Sunday at home against Carolina.

What Boudreau and assistants Scott Stevens, John Anderson, Darby Hendrickson and goaltending coach Bob Mason have done is provide in-depth tutelage in less than a week. There's still a lot more to learn and a roster to finalize, but the relationships being forged in camp right now will help determine the outcome of the 2016-17 season, which gets underway Oct. 13 at St. Louis.

"I think it's awesome for everyone to get a different look, different perspective of things, try new things," Dumba said. "I think change is good for us."

Coyle shifting back to wing

Charlie Coyle had practiced primarily at center before the World Cup returnees joined the fold Monday. He's now playing more right wing, which is where Boudreau plans to keep him.

"I think now that we're getting centers back you can put him at right wing," Boudreau said. "It showed he can play both, which he has in the past, but I think it's important that a player know 'this is where we want you to be. If you have to fill in for certain spots or things don't work, yeah, we change it.' But I think he's going to be a right winger."

Roster down to 48 players

Minnesota assigned defenseman Gustav Bouramman to Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) following Wednesday's practice. Eight other players were assigned earlier Wednesday.

The Wild's training camp roster now stands at 48 players.

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