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Cowen bolts into Sens spotlight

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Rookie defenceman Jared Cowen will make his NHL debut for the Senators tonight, when they face the Lightning in Tampa (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images).

Jared Cowen's time has arrived and perhaps a lot sooner than he imagined.

The 19-year-old defenceman from Allan, Sask., will make his National Hockey League debut tonight, when the Ottawa Senators face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).

Cowen, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is being inserted into the lineup in place of Anton Volchenkov, who is being given a night off in preparation for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin next week.

"That’s more maintenance than anything," Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray told The Team 1200 earlier today. "If we were in the playoffs, he could play and would play. We just want him 100 per cent healthy when we start the playoffs."

Instead, it'll be Cowen manning the blue line tonight, just eight days after his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs. He joined the Senators earlier this week and is understandably eager to see his first NHL action tonight. Cowen's parents, Brian and Cara, are flying in from Saskatoon to witness their son's special night.

"It’s definitely exciting," said Cowen, who'll wear No. 48 tonight. "When I first got told, my initial thought was to call my parents and tell everyone that I was playing. So it’s been exciting so far."

While the 6-5, 218-pound Cowen saw action in two pre-season games with the Senators last fall, he knows everything will be ramped up significantly tonight.

"I’m expecting it to be a little bit different than pre-season, definitely," he said. "I think I feel a lot better than I used to, before the season started. So it’s exciting and, hopefully, I do a lot better than I did the first game

"I’ve just got to try not to overthink everything. A lot of guys get out there and it’s their first (NHL) game and they think themselves out of the game. I’ve just got to keep it simple and move that puck quick and snap it."

"I’m expecting it to be a little bit different than pre-season, definitely. I think I feel a lot better than I used to, before the season started. So it’s exciting and hopefully, I feel a lot better and do a lot better than I did the first game I’ve just got to try not to overthink everything. A lot of guys get out there and it’s their first (NHL) game and they think themselves out of the game. I’ve just got to keep it simple and move that puck quick and snap it." - Jared Cowen
Murray, for one, couldn't agree more.

"I don’t think you’re going to see anything fancy or anything special," he said. "His style of play is that he’s a shutdown guy (with) great range defensively. He’s just a kid, though. He has to find a little more urgency in his game. He has to get a little quicker, he has to get a little more mobile, but he’s 19 years old. Those things are going to come."

The Lightning also present an imposing challenge offensively, with the likes of Steven Stamkos — a 47-goal scorer who is contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy — in their lineup.

"They’ve got a couple superstars on their team, so it’s something else to be aware of," said Cowen. "But every player on their team is going to be NHL calibre and a great player. There are lots of guys to watch. It’s not like junior, where there’s only a couple of good players you have to really key on. It’s just something else I’ve got to get used to here."

While he's aware of the Bolts' firepower, Senators head coach Cory Clouston still believes it's the right situation for Cowen to see his first real NHL actiion.

"The nice thing is, he knows it’s a game where our playoff lives aren’t on the line," Clouston said after the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today. "I’m not going to say it’s not a pressure game, but it’s not the same type of game (he’d have faced) if he came in a week or 10 days ago. It’s more of a less-stress situation and I think that’s good for him."

Around the boards

Cowen's debut tonight won't trigger the three-year entry level contract he signed with the Senators on Feb. 3. That doesn't happen until he plays his 10th NHL game ... Also joining the lineup in Tampa is forward Milan Michalek, who missed the previous nine games since suffering a knee injury against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 18 ... Goaltender Brian Elliott returns to the Senators net tonight ... With Michalek returning to the lineup, Ryan Shannon is a healthy scratch along with Shean Donovan and rookie Bobby Butler.


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