Fourth-liner Aston-Reese ready to build on return from hand injury |

Fourth-liner Aston-Reese ready to build on return from hand injury

Joe Rutter
Florida Panthers’ Colton Sceviour (7) and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese (46) fight during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Both players were penalized. The Penguins won 5-1. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

With his first game in over a month out of the way, Zach Aston-Reese is looking to increase his hockey conditioning for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Skating on a fourth line Wednesday night in a 3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers, Aston-Reese played in his first game since Jan. 8 when he suffered a hand injury in a fight.

The Penguins have games on consecutive days this weekend against Calgary and the New York Rangers.

Aston-Reese played 10 minutes, 53 seconds against Edmonton. He had five hits and was a plus-one. He admitted it took a while to get going after sitting out 13 games.

“It’s always a little bit difficult to stay in game shape no matter what you do (while you’re out),” he said Thursday after practice. “You’re kind of using your whole body, not just your legs or your upper body. You’re recreating a scenario where you read and react. That’s the toughest thing to do. You just have to play games.”

Aston-Reese joined Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson on a fourth line that, at times, found itself matched up against Edmonton’s top line that include Connor McDavid and Leon Drasistatl. The fourth-liners held the McDavid line in check during 4 minutes, 3 seconds of ice time.

“I thought as a line we played pretty well,” Aston-Reese said. “It felt good that coach trusted us to get the job done.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.