New York Islanders forward Colin McDonald hit Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy into the boards behind the Penguins net during a Jan. 29 game, knocking Lovejoy out of the contest.
Unbeknownst at that time, the hit also knocked Lovejoy off the team as the Penguins traded him to the Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday, leaving a void in the defense.
Looking to fill the hole, the Penguins recalled defenseman Dylan Reese up to the National Hockey League from their minor league affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Reese is a native of Upper St. Clair and one of a handful of Jewish players in the NHL. Others include, Jeff Halpern of the New York Rangers, Mike Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames and Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars.
The Penguins acquired Reese as a free agent during the summer. Drafted in 2003 by the New York Rangers, he ended up in the New York Islanders organization where he made his NHL debut and played in 74 games in three seasons with the team.
Coincidentally, the Penguins signed another Jewish free agent during the summer, forward Trevor Smith. Smith, from Ottawa, Ontario, played in parts of two seasons with the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is
currently playing in the minors with Wilkes-Barre Scranton.
This is not the first time that Reese will be playing hockey in Pittsburgh. He played for Upper St. Clair High School and for the Pittsburgh Forge junior hockey team. He is a graduate of
Harvard University and played four years of hockey with the Crimson.
The Lovejoy trade was not the only component that necessitated Reese’s arrival to the Penguins. With Penguins defensemen Matt Niskanen and Kris Letang currently on injured reserve, only five defensemen whom the Penguins began the season with are healthy enough to play.
That left room for Reese who wanted to make the Penguins out of training camp but was sent down to begin the year in the minors.
Niskanen began to practice last week and may return to the active roster soon. However, with Letang out indefinitely and Lovejoy gone, Reese may remain with the Penguins for some time.
The 28-year-old is among a generation of Pittsburghers who became inspired to play hockey by the Penguins Stanley Cup championship teams of 1991 and ’92.
Reese grew up watching Penguins Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux and others who brought the first two Stanley Cup championships to the city.
Reese has yet to record a point with the Penguins, but he has 17 points in his career — three goals and 14 assists, all with the Islanders.
Reese joined the team during a four-game winning streak. He played his first game as a Penguin last Thursday night, helping the club to a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals in the Consol Energy Center in front of a crowd that included some of his family and friends. Reese is the son of Barry and Marcie Reese.
He played in the next two games as well, a pair of 3-1 losses against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon and Sunday night.
Reese has been paired up with defenseman Simon Despres, a staple on the Penguins defense this season.
Through the first three games in his tenure with the Penguins, Reese has taken one shot, has one takeaway, and has blocked four shots. He has been on the ice for a total of 45 minutes and 47 seconds in the three games, averaging a little more than 15 minutes per game.
While nothing about those statistics may stand out, he is even in the plus-minus category and he has not been on the ice for an even-strength goal by another team.
In his short time with the Penguins, Reese faced some top goal producers in the league, including Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and New Jersey’s Ilya
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com. The Chronicle will continue to follow Reese’s progress with the club.)