The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t hide from the injury bug, even in the NHL bubble. The airtight fortress of hotels, amenities, and hockey which has thus far kept COVID-19 out, could not protect the Penguins from more injuries as the team announced Zach Aston-Reese was the latest victim.
Aston-Reese, 26, had left shoulder surgery, according to the Penguins. He will be out for six months, which places his return into February.
The NHL has scheduled the 2020-21 season to begin on Dec. 1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made the announcement via Twitter. Team physician, Dr. Dharmesh Vyas performed the surgery at UPMC Montefiore Hospital. The team did not make additional details available.
Zach Aston-Reese was part of the Penguins aggressive fourth line with center Teddy Blueger and winger Brandon Tanev. Even as head coach Mike Sullivan shuffled and juggled lines due to ineffectiveness and an extraordinary spate of injuries, the Penguins kept the fourth-line trio together.
Through December, the Penguins were the most significantly injured team in the NHL, according to ManGamesLost.com.
Aston-Reese had 13 points, including six goals in 57 games this season. Aston-Reese played in parts of the previous two seasons. He played in 16 games during the 2017-18 season but was knocked out of the playoffs by a violent hit from Tom Wilson, for which Wilson was suspended and Aston-Reese suffered a broken jaw.
Injuries limited Aston-Reese to 43 games last season, too. He broke his hand at some point during or after a fight with Florida Panther Colton Sceviour.
Aston-Reese will have plenty of time for video games in the coming weeks. He was a semi-finalist in the TSN online gaming challenge during the pandemic pause.
On Monday, the Penguins announced two players underwent surgery. In addition to Aston-Reese, center Evgeni Malkin also had elbow surgery. The Penguins estimated Malkin’s recovery time at four weeks.
The injury bug bit the Penguins hard. Penguins winger Jake Guentzel also had shoulder surgery this season after he suffered an awkward fall into the boards on Dec. 30. He too missed six months but was back for the NHL postseason.
Aston-Reese is set to be a free agent after next season. He signed a two-year, $2 million deal at the arbitration table last summer.
Editor’s note: The original version incorrectly noted Malkin had shoulder surgery.