WILKES-BARRE — Compared to how he finished last season, it’s been a seemingly tough start to the year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins rookie Zach Aston-Reese.
After wrapping up his senior year at Northeastern University, Aston-Reese joined the Penguins for the final 10 games of the regular season and immediately impressed, scoring three goals and eight points.
This year, Aston-Reese doesn’t have a point in four games. He sat out twice and missed crucial practice time last week to get his wisdom teeth removed. Even more alarming is the fact that Aston-Reese has registered a total of four shots in four games this year, a figure he matched in a single game five times last season.
So is it time to panic?
Not hardly. Aston-Reese said he’s been through goal-scoring droughts before, and things always work out in the end.
“Even in college, I go back to my senior year and I wasn’t scoring goals until three or four weeks into the season,” he said. “My junior year I don’t think I had a goal until eight or 10 games in, and those seasons are half of this.
“There’s really no reason to hit the panic button at all.”
Actually, there’s reason to believe that Aston-Reese may be turning the corner.
In his return to the lineup on Saturday, Aston-Reese registered two shots, generated several scoring chances and was noticeable in finishing his checks.
Aston-Reese said if the chances weren’t there, then it would be time to panic. Instead, he feels like he’s back on track.
So does head coach Clark Donatelli.
“I thought he did really well. One of his better games,” Donatelli said of Saturday’s effort. “He was doing a lot of things he needs to do to be successful.”
Donatelli said the two games that Aston-Reese sat out — Oct. 15 at the end of a three-in-three and last Friday — wasn’t meant as a punishment. It had more to do with getting his wisdom teeth removed, taking a break and re-evaluating his game.
Donatelli pointed out that Jake Guentzel even sat out for three games during his first recall with Pittsburgh last season and went on to score 16 goals in 40 games.
“Sometimes the answer isn’t to keep playing guys. Sometimes they have to watch and clear their heads,” Donatelli said.
Aston-Reese said the time spent watching instead of playing was beneficial in that it offered him a different perspective of the game. He noted that missing two days of practice due to his wisdom teeth also played a factor in missing Friday’s game.
“I know I just have to work on my shot in practice and they’ll start going in,” Aston-Reese said. “I’m starting from square one again, but there’s no problem with that at all.”
- Donatelli said after Monday’s practice that injured players D Jeff Taylor, D Jarred Tinordi, C Colin Smith and C Troy Josephs are still considered week-to-week and won’t return this weekend.
The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled goaltender Casey DeSmith on Monday after G Antti Niemi was placed on waivers.
Forward Carter Rowney has been placed on injured reserve.
DeSmith, 26, is joining an NHL roster for the first time in his career. He has made three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, posting a 3-0 record to accompany his 0.98 goals-against average, .965 save percentage and one shutout. DeSmith ranks second in the AHL in goal-against average and third in save percentage.