The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without Zach Aston-Reese for a while after he tested positive for COVID-19. Head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters including Josh Yohe of The Athletic that Aston-Reese will enter the league’s protocol.
With the Penguins already missing their two best forwards, losing Aston-Reese for any length of time is certainly not ideal. The team re-signed the 27-year-old forward to a one-year, $1.75MM contract this summer as a valuable, versatile option that has experience playing all over the lineup. While he should be out of the protocols before the season begins, this obviously complicates his status.
This, like the recent absences of Kevin Lankinen and Mike Hardman in Chicago, is another reminder that this season will not be completely back to normal. Teams and players, even those who have achieved full vaccination status, could still face sudden absences based on testing results and will have to prepare accordingly. Having depth options at the ready will be extremely important, especially for a team like Pittsburgh that can’t afford to throw away any games in the competitive Metropolitan Division.