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Cowen could return to help B-Sens chase Calder

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Don't count out Jared Cowen just yet.

The rookie blueliner could be in the lineup Tuesday night in Texas when the Binghamton Senators take aim at the franchise's first Calder Cup. The B-Sens lead the Houston Aeros 3-2 in the best-of-seven American Hockey League championship series and can end it with a victory at the Toyota Center (8 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).

Cowen, who has become a major force on the Binghamton blue line during the Calder Cup playoffs, suffered an upper body injury in the first period of Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Aeros at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y. The Ottawa Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft didn't return to the game and reports over the weekend suggested Cowen might have suffered a season-ending concussion.

The native of Allan, Sask., travelled with the B-Sens to Houston today, but didn't practise with his teammates at the Toyota Center. However, Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst said afterward Cowen was only taking a "maintenance day" and it was possible he could be available for Game 6 on Tuesday. If he can't go, either Patrick Wiercioch or Craig Schira will enter the lineup.

Meanwhile, forward Roman Wick, who sat out the last two games with an upper body injury, has been cleared to return to the lineup. But there is one big loss the B-Sens can't hope to overcome for the rest of the Calder Cup Finals, however long it lasts.

Assistant coach Steve Stirling remained in hospital in Johnson City, N.Y., after undergoing a quadruple bypass operation on Sunday. Stirling, 62, a former New York Islanders coach who oversees the B-Sens' defence and power play, reported feeling chest pains earlier in the day at Broome County Arena and was rushed to hospital.

"The doctor said that everything went well, and they did everything that they needed to do," Kleinendorst told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. "He got through the night okay. Last I heard, he's continuing to do well. It's tough."

Kleinendorst suggested today it's likely Senators goaltender coach Rick Wamsley will join him on the bench for the rest of the series, including a potential Game 7 on Thursday night in Houston. Wamsley finished the 2009-10 season as interim head coach of the AHL's Peoria Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues' primary affiliate.

"Rick Wamsley certainly is a good candidate," said Kleinendorst. "He knows the guys. He's been around enough to know what I'm looking for. He's been behind the bench before. If I was betting man, I'd say that's probably the way I would go."

With a win tonight, the B-Sens can claim Binghamton's first Calder Cup in 29 years of AHL participation. But they know it won't be easy against the Aeros, who are 8-3 on home ice during these Calder Cup playofs. Binghamton, meanwhile, is a stellar 9-2 on the road.

"They're like a wounded animal in a trap," B-Sens forward Erik Condra told the Press & Sun-Bulletin. "We've got to try and put them down, but it's not going to be easy."

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