Bragging rights at stake for Penguins’ Aston-Reese, Sharks’ Labanc
Zach Aston-Reese is looking forward to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game Thursday night against San Jose, and not simply because it will be his fifth consecutive game on the ice since he missed 13 with an injury.
Aston-Reese will be playing against Sharks right winger Kevin Labanc. Like Aston-Reese, Labanc is a native of Staten Island in New York, which is not exactly considered a hockey hotbed like, say, Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
“We’re a little more anonymous,” Aston-Reese said with a laugh when a comparison was made between the Staten Island duo and Cole Harbour’s Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.
Aston-Reese and Labanc are the only current NHL players that hail from the New York City borough. A third Staten Island native son, Joe Gambardella, was called up for four games earlier this year by the Edmonton Oilers but is back in the minors.
“It’s my first time playing against him,” Aston-Reese said about the impending matchup against Labanc. “I’m excited about that.”
Aston-Reese, 24 is a year older than Labanc, who is in his third NHL season and has 11 goals, 27 assists in 60 games.
“We’ve been training together since I was 15 and he was 14,” Aston-Reese said. “I’ve been training with Kevin every time we go back home for the summer.”
Aston-Reese is hoping he can get some bragging rights on Labanc.
“It’s definitely friendly, but on the ice, you don’t have any friends, that’s why I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re pretty competitive with each other.”
Labanc recorded his first career hat trick Feb. 9 at Edmonton and scored five times in a three-goal stretch before going scoreless the past two games. Aston-Reese has three points in his past two games and scored his seventh goal of the season Tuesday at New Jersey.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .