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Penguins Aston-Reese Returns with a Bang; Can it Continue? | PHN+

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UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Pittsburgh Penguins Center Zach Aston-Reese (12) scores a goal on New York Islanders Goalie Semyon Varlamov (40) along with New York Islanders Defenseman Andy Greene (4) and New York Islanders Center Casey Cizikas (53) during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders on February 11, 2021, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Hockey is particularly unique as one line can become greater than the sum of its parts. A player like Zach Aston-Reese can return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup after six months, and suddenly a grinding role player completes a shutdown line which turns into an attacking line.

It happened Thursday night as the Penguins beat the New York Islanders, 4-3 in a shootout, and the Penguins’ third line had the energy and spark that a good third line should have.

Yet, the line with Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, and Brandon Tanev came together as a matter of circumstance more than choice.

“They had a great game, all three of them, they brought a lot of energy,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “They played a fair amount together, as you know and they have some chemistry. There’s a comfort level there.”

Ordinarily, just one game would not be cause to praise a line. But there’s also a nearly 60 game sample size from last season.

Aston-Reese didn’t worry too much about the score sheet last season. He embraced the fourth line role and wrapped his arms around the defensive aspects. We chatted a few times about that (back in the good old days when a reporter could actually talk to the participants and get the little insights and context that form the bigger insights).

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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