Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese has no solutions to latest Tom Wilson controversy |

Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese has no solutions to latest Tom Wilson controversy

Jonathan Bombulie
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2018, file photo, Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) is escorted by an official off the ice after he checked St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist, background, during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Washington. Wilson has had his 20-game suspension reduced to 14 by a neutral arbitrator and is eligible to play immediately. Wilson has already served 16 games of his suspension for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist in each team’s preseason finale. The ruling by Shyam Das allows Wilson to return as soon as Tuesday night, Nov. 13, 2018, at Minnesota, and the 24-year-old will recoup $378,049 of the $1.26 million he initially forfeited as part of the suspension.

NEWARK, N.J. – Zach Aston-Reese has enough to worry about. He really does.

The 24-year-old winger started the year in the AHL and was just recently promoted to fourth-line duty for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s trying to establish himself as a regular in the top league in the world and trying to do his part to help his team overcome an uneven start to the season.

Yes, he probably does have a different perspective on all matters Tom Wilson than most.

While the Washington Capitals winger’s track record of violent hits is relatively long, there are still only a handful of players in the league who have actually been injured at his hands, and Aston-Reese is one of them.

But no, he doesn’t have any answers on days like Tuesday, when word came that an independent arbitrator reduced Wilson’s suspension for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist from 20 to 14 games.

“Whenever there was a big hit or something, I was always asked, ‘How do you feel about this?’ I probably feel the same way everyone else in the locker room does,” Aston-Reese said amiably. “Maybe one day I’ll work for player safety, but I’m not there yet. I don’t really have the answers to all those questions. I was more worried about getting in the lineup. Now I’m worried about staying and helping the team win. I’m over it, all that stuff.”

Most Penguins players took the same approach as Aston-Reese when discussing the reduction of Wilson’s suspension Tuesday. If they had any strong opinions, they kept them to themselves.

“Obviously you have certain feelings toward certain things, but it doesn’t always work out in your favor,” defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said.

There seemed to be a general dissatisfaction among some players with how complicated the process is. Wilson’s suspension was handed down by the department of player safety and appealed to commissioner Gary Bettman before the arbitrator made his ruling about six weeks after the hit took place.

Center Matt Cullen said the optics of the reduction weren’t good for the league and its reputation. He also said the effectiveness of the punishment – whether it changes Wilson’s behavior or not – will probably not be determined by the particulars of the suspension.

“Anytime that I’ve seen it happen, it’s seemingly come from coaches and management within the organization,” Cullen said. “I don’t think that coming from the league it changes a player. When the league suspends them, I think often it doesn’t do a lot.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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