Though his vacation photos were beautiful, Matt Dumba found it painful to look through them. Many of the places he visited during a trip to Australia last April were now charred, ruined by the fires raging across the country.
Those lush coastlines, majestic forests and nature parks helped rejuvenate Dumba’s spirit after an injury-shortened season for the Wild defenseman. This week, he began an effort to pay back a country he has come to love. A Timberwolves season-ticket holder, Dumba pledged to donate $100 to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service for every point the Wolves scored Tuesday against Memphis — a 119-112 loss that generated $11,200 from Dumba’s pocket to help battle the fires and assist those affected.
Dumba’s attention will shift back to the ice Thursday, as the Wild resumes play at Calgary following a two-day break in the schedule. A little piece of his heart will remain with the people and wildlife of Australia in their time of need.
“That was the least I could do,’’ Dumba said Wednesday, after the Wild’s practice at Tria Rink. “I’ve seen on social media some of the exact pictures I had taken, with those landscapes ablaze. That was hard for me to even picture.
“When I was there, it was gorgeous. To see it all up in flames, it’s crazy. It’s just so sad.’’
Dumba spent 2½ weeks in Australia with a friend and was captivated by its unique culture and natural beauty. He has posted several photos from the trip on his Instagram account, along with a heartfelt plea for donations and a link to make them.
“People are reaching out to me and saying they’ve donated, or thank you, or reposting it,’’ he said. “I know we raised a big chunk of change [Tuesday].’’
Zucker healing quickly
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau dropped a surprise Wednesday when he said forward Jason Zucker, who broke a leg on Dec. 15, could resume practicing as soon as Friday.
Zucker fractured his right fibula in a loss at Chicago and had surgery on Dec. 20. Though he was expected to sit out four to six weeks, Friday will mark only three weeks since his surgery. He has been skating with Wild skating coach Andy Ness, and Boudreau said he’s been told Zucker “is coming along good.’’
“It may not happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he practiced with us on Friday,’’ Boudreau said. “Who knows? Maybe I’m just a coach, and it’s wishful thinking. He’s been skating on his own, and it’s been going well.’’
Kunin heating up
Forward Luke Kunin has been providing more offense recently, with six points in his past six games.
Part of that success is because of his synergy with linemates Marcus Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek. He’s also listening to his coach’s oft-repeated advice.
“Me and Luke have talked about shoot, shoot, shoot,’’ Boudreau said. “And when he’s shooting, shooting, shooting, good things are usually following.’’
In 42 games this season, Kunin has reached career highs in goals (10) and points (19). Over the past six games, Kunin has put 17 shots on net, with two goals and four assists. In the previous nine games, he had only 10 shots on goal and three points.
“I’ve always tried to shoot a lot of pucks and tried to find that open ice,’’ Kunin said. “Coming in this year, that was a big focus of mine, to get a lot of pucks on net and try to create offense that way when I can. That’s my mind-set every game.’’
Boudreau said Kunin, 22, is maturing as a player and meshing well with Foligno and Eriksson Ek. Kunin credited his linemates for their energetic play, which he said creates space and scoring opportunities.
Boudreau said everyone in the Wild’s usual lineup is expected to play Thursday, though defenseman Matt Bartkowski was recalled Tuesday to have an extra skater on hand. Defenseman Greg Pateryn will travel to Calgary to get reacclimated, but he won’t play.