The buzzsaw could be back as soon as Thursday, as Zach Aston-Reese takes another step towards returning to the lineup
There’s always good news mixed with bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that was no different yesterday. The bad news was Jared McCann was absent from the event. But the good news is the Pens had a welcomed return for line rushes to replace him in the form of Zach Aston-Reese.
Aston-Reese has been gearing up and slowly inching towards making his return to the lineup following an August shoulder surgery. He also talked about trying to add more of an offensive dimension to his game and eliminate some hesitation after getting his shoulder repaired.
“Being able to play physical, two-way game,” Aston-Reese said last week. “I’ve been pretty good defensively, but being able to add in offensively is going to help a lot.”
Aston-Reese could provide a badly needed boost to the bottom-six. As mentioned yesterday, important players have gone cold off the scoreboard with Brandon Tanev only having one point in the last nine games. Teddy Blueger has gone six games without a goal. Further down the lineup, Mark Jankowski and Colton Sceviour have gone even colder.
With McCann apparently out, this is the perfect time for Aston-Reese to return to bolster the left wing position.
And, Aston-Reese was put in his most visible spot from last season, on the left side with Blueger and Tanev in a fan-favorite line dubbed The Buzzsaw for the grinding defensive acumen that saw all three forwards put up some of the best suppression and defensive numbers of anyone in the league last season.
“He’s hard on the puck,” Blueger said of Aston-Reese. “He’s good in front of the net. He makes good decisions defensively. He’s always in the right position. He plays a hard, heavy game. In the offensive zone he’s great at protecting the puck and holding onto it, just allowing us to have possession.”
The offensive play will be the most interesting to see just how much of that element Aston-Reese will provide with his surgically repaired shoulder. Just take a look at his offensive slump last season compared to his first two seasons in the NHL:
Aston-Reese is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this offseason, in a landscape where arbitration rights and free agents are often let walk by their teams. He is certainly playing for a job moving forward for this team, and possibly for the whole league. Ideally Aston-Reese can return more to 2017-19 form with his ability to create offense with his shoulder healed up.
Regardless of the big picture, for now it will be a boost to the Pens defense and checking, at least when they get Aston-Reese back in the lineup. The buzzsaw looks like it is coming back, and it might be back as soon as next game on Thursday.