PHILADELPHIA – Jason Zucker’s recent hot streak is benefiting more people than his teammates. Every time he scores a goal, it costs the Wild winger $1,600 — an expense he’s happy to bear.
Zucker and his wife, Carly, launched a fundraising campaign last month for the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. They hope fans will donate amounts related to his jersey number, 16, and the Zuckers got the puck rolling with an initial gift of $160,000. In addition, they are pledging $1,600 for each goal Jason scores this season.
That means his run of six in a row against Toronto, Montreal and Philadelphia will cost them $10,800. “It’s great,’’ Zucker said Saturday, before the Wild’s game at Philadelphia. “Every time you score, you know it’s going to something good. That makes it even more fun.’’
The facility will include a theater where children staying at the hospital — and their families — will be able to watch Wild games in a private-suite atmosphere. The broadcast studio will be used for kids and families to create programs such as game shows and celebrity interviews, and for doctors to produce educational programming.
The total cost of the facility is $500,000, and the fundraising campaign will run all season.
Zucker’s six goals and one assist on the four-game road trip elevated him to the team lead in points (14), goals (nine), power-play goals (three) and game-winning goals (three). Wild coach Bruce Boudreau wants to see his game, and his donation, keep growing.
“I told him three words,’’ Boudreau said. “Never be satisfied. He’s going well, and I don’t want him to stop playing the way he’s been playing, but don’t be satisfied.
“If you’ve only gotten 20-some goals in the past, then shoot for 40. Don’t be happy with 30. Hopefully he just pushes it a little harder.’’
The hurt blocker
The Wild blocked 28 shots in Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Montreal, a statistic that made a huge impression on Boudreau. Like a good, hard hit — another skill the coach appreciates — a block can give a team an emotional lift.
Both the Wild and Flyers have been proficient shot-blockers this season. Philadelphia is third in the NHL with 15.81 per game, and the Wild is right behind in fourth with 15.80.
“Blocked shots are a real sign of courage to me,’’ Boudreau said. “Everyone on the bench appreciates a teammate sacrificing themselves. I thought those 28 blocks [Thursday] were very important.’’
Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin, tied for 12th in the league with 37 blocks this season, said the players’ body armor ensures it usually doesn’t hurt that much. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, though, had his doubts.
“You see the bumps and bruises,’’ Dubnyk said. “I always give guys a hard time; I tell them, ‘I have equipment for that.’
“That’s what we need, especially in a game like [Thursday’s] that we really needed to win. Everyone gets excited to see guys do that.’’
Tuesday at the X
Saturday’s game began a home-and-home set against the Flyers, who play the Wild again on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center. That game will be the centerpiece of the Wild’s activities to support the NHL’s “Hockey Fights Cancer’’ initiative.
The Wild will wear lavender warmup jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game, and encourage fans to wear that color as well. There will be a drive to collect new pajamas of all sizes; they can be dropped off at Gates 1-4 from 5:45 p.m. until the end of the first period and will be donated to patients at local pediatric hospitals. Other fundraisers and activities will be held Tuesday and throughout the month to benefit local cancer charities.
The Wild scratched Kyle Quincey, opting to use Mike Reilly and Gustav Olofsson together on the third defensive pair for the second consecutive game.