Inside Access: A Day at Minnesota Wild Training Camp

Nick MaxsonCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO. - SEPTEMBER 15: Jamie Fraser #39 of the Minnesota Wild is looks to control the puck against Patrik Berglund #21, Andy McDonald #10 and Steve Wagner #49 all of the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on September 15, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Arriving at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday morning, it was an early start to a long day of work for the Wild.

The ice is frozen, the air is cool even from the stands where all the media was sitting with their laptops open and coffee in another hand.

It wasn't a relaxing day for the players by any means.

At 10 AM, even before the hit the ice for practice, goalies Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom were on the ice with coach Bob Mason.

Working on movement drills, reaction drills, and breakout drills, both goaltenders looked sharp and poised.

By 10:30 AM, the first group of Wild players entered the arena mainly starters from last year and a few new faces.

The main focus of the practice today? Skating, offensive pressure, zone defense, and playing the body.

The players on the ice rarely got a chance to stand around as most of the exercises on the ice kept them skating.

It was a short one-hour practice for the first group, and even shorter for some veterans such as Owen Nolan and Andrew Brunette who left the ice early. Head Coach Todd Richards blamed himself for the short practice.

"I had a meeting today that went a little bit longer than i wanted it too, and i feel like the guys were warmed up and ready to go, but then when my meeting carried on too long the guys got a little cold."

It has been a very busy training camp for the players and coaches, learning and teaching new material on a daily basis.

When asked about possible information overload, Richards thought that the players were catching on just fine and that he didn't think the players were being overwhelmed with information.

The other side of training camp is the physical punishment, the daily grind and exercise is getting some players including big man Cal Clutterbuck who set an NHL record in hits last season.

"I'm starting to feel some pain in my legs but its training camp and im just trying to push through it."

Coach Richards added that he has seen some soreness in the players and the team trainer has said that it is normal, and nothing severe has surfaced in training camp so far.

Some players are also trying to make an impression of the new coaching staff including center James Sheppard who has to make his case this season.

"Im definetly looking for a bigger role", said Sheppard. "On my junior team i defeinetly had more responsibilty and a bigger role."

With the recent signing of free agent Petr Sykora, the roster space has tightened and it will be a race to see if any of the prospects can make an impression on the coaching staff and front office.

When talking about young players, Todd Richards made it clear what he is looking for.

"When you can have size and speed like your Sheps and Pouliots, thats what you want, and theyt have that."

The biggest challenge for the team is going to be adapting to the new system of play, and that is the number one priority for both the players and coaches.

"We are going to take it one step at a time, and i hope we can give the fans a taste of what we will look like on Friday," said Richards

"The hardest thing is going to be sticking to the plan, going 82 games and making sure we are on the right track," said Clutterbuck.

Every player and coach is excited about the team, the opportunity and the expectations are high. Even with the changes coming the players see nothing different.

"in the end, its all the same game," said Derek Boogard.

Minnesota will kick off its regular season Saturday Oct. 3 on the road against Columbus.

Writers Note: Staff Writer Nick Maxson, and Bleacher Report would like to thank Aaron Sickman, Director Of Media Relations with the Minnesota Wild for this wonderful opportunity.

It was a wonderful and exciting experience that will not only will benefit me,  but our readers as well. Thank you for allowing Bleacher Report to be apart of Minnesota Wild Training Camp.


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