|With their defence corps still ravaged by injuries, the Binghamton Senators welcome the arrival of Jared Cowen for Game 6 of their AHL playoff series against the Portland Pirates. Cowen became available when his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).
He isn't being asked to be the Binghamton Senators' saviour.
But there's no question that Jared Cowen
's arrival couldn't be much better timed. With their blue-line corps still ravaged by injuries, the B-Sens can certainly use the youthful energy that the Ottawa Senators' top pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (ninth overall) can bring to the mix.
The 6-5, 220-pound Cowen skated with the B-Sens during their practice session earlier today at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. He's expected to make his American Hockey League playoff debut Friday night (7 p.m., Team 1200, ahllive.com), when Binghamton tries one more time to close out the Pirates in Game 6 of their Atlantic Division final.
Binghamton has built a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series without the services of injured blueliners Derek Smith, Craig Schira, Patrick Coulombe and Eric Gryba
. Two games ago, Patrick Wiercioch
went down as well, leaving head coach Kurt Kleinendorst to put together a patchwork defence group, while doling out heavier minutes to the likes of Andre Benoit and Geoff Kinrade
Needless to say, Kleinendorst welcomes the addition of Cowen to the fold, which became a possibility when his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs — ironically, by another Portland team, the Oregon-based Winterhawks — earlier this week.
"It’s huge," Kleinendorst told the Team 1200 today. "When we found out Jared’s team was eliminated, it was a good news, bad news kind of thing. We felt bad for him and his team but at the same time, selflishly, we feel like he can come in here and give us a little bit of a hand as well. This is going to be a great experience for him."
That being said, the B-Sens don't intend to put too much on Cowen's broad 20-year-old shoulders just yet.
"We had a little bit of time with Jared earlier this year in training camp, so as coaches, we’ve had a chance to get to know him a little bit," said Kleinendorst. "We’ll just handle Jared like we have all our guys. It would be a little bit easier if we were playing at home, because we could protect him a little bit and get some matchups that we feel might favour him just a little bit.
"But I will say this. I don’t know that Jared really needs protecting. He’s a pretty good player. He’s been through the ropes. He’s played at the world juniors. This is nothing new to him. But having said that, we’re not just going to throw him to the wolves, either. We’ll try to be a little bit careful about how we use him early and who we put him out against. But Jared’s going to be just fine."
Cowen is enthused about getting the opportunity to help the cause.
"It's exciting to get some pro hockey experience," he told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
. "We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, I get a chance to do well and help the guys out here. I think they're having a hard time with the minutes — five guys out, I've never really seen that before. Hopefully, I can contribute a little bit in the D zone and penalty kill. I think my size helps."
Kleinendorst also confirmed he plans to start Robin Lehner
in goal on Friday against the Pirates. Lehner, who was pulled after allowing four goals in the first 15 minutes of Tuesday's 6-2 loss in Game 5 in Binghamton, N.Y., has compiled a 6-2-0 record since taking over goaltending chores from the ailing Barry Brust in the opening-round series against the Manchester Monarchs.
"(Lehner) had a little bit of a rough start the other night, but that doesn't make him a bad goaltender," said Kleinendorst. "Barry went in and cleaned up, but I think it's important for Robin, as a 19-year-old goalie, to know that he's right back in there and we're in his corner.
"He's been really good for us, so I think it would be a big mistake to change that right now."