OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators got a welcome surprise at practice Wednesday morning.
Defenceman Jared Cowen joined the team on the ice for the first time this season. The 22-year-old has been recovering from surgery for a torn labrum in his hip.
Cowen suffered the injury while playing with the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators and had surgery in mid-November.
Being able to join practice was a welcome change of scenery for Cowen, who has been skating on his own for the past few weeks.
"It was a nice change to get on the ice with the guys," Cowen said. "It was kind of monotonous to be skating by myself."
Cowen took to the ice in a regular practice jersey, meaning he was open for contact, but that doesn't mean his return to the active roster is imminent.
"He's a young man and he likes to play, but he still has follow the process," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "Part of his participation was to give him a little something. He's been skating by himself all the time. A little bit is to give him a little shot of energy and some confidence."
Cowen is cautiously optimistic that he could return this season, if not by the end of the regular season then hopefully at some point during the playoffs.
"The plan hasn't changed once, from the beginning it's always been don't rush it, take it slow," said Cowen. "Everything's gone well so there's an opportunity, there's a chance, but at the same time I'm not going to say I'm going to play for sure. So there's no definite answer, but there's always a chance."
Cowen said he's progressing and "can't deny how well it's gotten."
"From the first time I started skating until now is a big jump so hopefully it keeps going that same way," he said.
Cowen will join the team for an upcoming road trip and anticipates taking part in practice on a regular basis as long as he continues to feel good.
When asked if the playoffs were a target for his return, Cowen was honest.
"For me personally yes, but it's not a target for the trainers," Cowen said. "Personally it's been a goal for me all year long. I haven't pushed that way I've just been doing the schedule and my body's kind of healed that way so obviously there's a good chance now."
The Senators could also see goaltender Craig Anderson back in action soon.
Anderson, who suffered a high ankle sprain February 21, took part in a full practice and spoke to the media for the first time since suffering the injury.
"I feel really good," Anderson said. "The last few days I've come a long way and was able to stay out there with the guys and kind of participate in the practice."
Anderson has no set date for his return, but didn't rule out being ready for Saturday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I want to make sure I'm comfortable and give the team the best opportunity to win the hockey game," said Anderson. "Until I get that rhythm back by practising a few more times it’s hard to say."
MacLean anticipates Anderson's return will be dictated by his comfort level in goal.
"Today he was in the net and playing goal," MacLean said. "He has to do that more often and get himself to a place where he feels comfortable in the net and also handling the puck all the thing that go with playing the position. I think today was a good start for him in that direction."
Notes: The Boston Bruins claimed left-winger Kaspars Daugavins off waivers from the Senators. Daugavins made headlines earlier this year when he attempted a ringette-style move in the shootout against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask stopped the shot. In 19 games the 24-year-old has one goal and three assists. Daugavins will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. "I'm lucky I got picked up and now I have a new team to work for," said Daugavins. "They're going to give it to me hard on that one (the shootout move)."...Ben Bishop will get the start Thursday against the New York Rangers…LW Mike Hoffman, recalled yesterday from the AHL, took part in practice and could be in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers.