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Aston-Reese commits entire summer to training

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Penguins

Zach Aston-Reese is enjoying a normal summer. 

After the Penguins' season ended in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a first-round setback to the New York Islanders, Aston-Reese decided to make moves. Literally. 

Aston-Reese, 24, moved to Toronto for the summer to concentrate on his training, working with Penguins' director of Sports Sciences Andy O'Brien. Instead of taking a trip to Europe, as he did last year, Aston-Reese opted to focus on his training. 

"I've been here the last two months. Things have been going well," he said. "It's been awesome being around the amount of pros and the caliber of guys that are at the gym and have been skating."

Aston-Reese trains in a morning group that consists of fellow Penguins players Dominik Simon and Sam Miletic, as well as former Penguin Jamie Oleksiak and Calgary's Andrew Mangiapane. But twice a week the entire NHL group - which includes talents like John Tavares and Jeff Skinner - will train together. 

"I've been hanging out with (Miletic) a lot. He's a great guy," Aston-Reese said. "Everyone is friendly and nice, and easy to get along with."

At this same time last year, Aston-Reese was still recovering from a broken jaw that limited him to eating soft foods for three months. This time around, the only other thing on his mind was an upcoming salary arbitration hearing. But he and the Penguins avoided that scenario after agreeing to a two-year contract extension for $1 million average annual value. 

"I was really happy to get the deal done before that meeting began," Aston-Reese said. "You hear stories and things like that, it's no coincidence that only five percent actually go through with the meeting. I was really relieved to avoid that."

Though it did get pretty close to that. 

"We were setting up for the meeting and got (the contract) right before it started," he said. "I think right at 9 o'clock it got done, so right on time." 

With the contract out of the way, Aston-Reese can concentrate on the upcoming season. He's coming off of a career year offensively while being limited to half a season due to injuries. There is a logjam at the forward position for Pittsburgh, and Aston-Reese will look to separate himself from the pack. 

"If you look at some of the moves we've made as a team this off-season its filling out the roster, giving our team a lot of depth," he said. "I think throughout the last two seasons I've seen minutes on the fourth line and minutes on the first line. Wherever I've been, I've been able to do my job. 

"As far as that's concerned, I don't have any expectations of what the lines are going to look like. I just want to go in, bring my game and do what's asked of me." 

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