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Future is now for Sens blueliners Karlsson, Cowen

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Thanks to his new partnership with fellow young gun Erik Karlsson, rookie defenceman Jared Cowen has seen increased minutes in recent game on the Senators blue line (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Jared Cowen is surely a quick study.

Ask the rookie Ottawa Senators blueliner about the benefits of playing alongside his newest defence partner and the answer comes easily and quickly.

"Usually, he gets to play a lot of minutes, so I get to play a lot minutes, too," said the 20-year-old Cowen, who's been paired with the dynamic Erik Karlsson the last two games. "I like playing more minutes because you're on the ice all the time. It's just a better way to play."

The current pairing of two of the Senators' brightest young defence talents is intriguing, to say the least. Their styles couldn't be more diverse, with Karlsson one of the National Hockey League's top offensive threats from the blue line — he leads all NHL defencemen in scoring with 23 points — and the 6-5 Cowen projected to be more of a shutdown guy. But it's their differences, both say, that make the duo an ideal complement.

"We play the way that a pair of defencemen maybe should play," said Karlsson, the current leader among defencemen in fan balloting for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place.

"He's a little bit more defensive than me. He knows his role out there and I know mine, and I think we complement each other very well."

Added Cowen: "He's usually up in the play and when he is, I'm usually back, which is fine by me. I can usually handle whatever pressures come my way. I think we're doing fine. We communicate pretty well, so it's been pretty good so far. I always played with those types of guys in junior, so it's nothing new for me ... I think that's why it's working well."

While Cowen isn't without offensive abilities — he scored 48 points, including 18 goals, with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League last season — it's his stay-at-home nature that helps give Karlsson the comfort to do more freelancing in the attacking zone, which makes the speedy Swede even more of a threat.

"I trust him out there," said Karlsson. "He's very good at what he does out there. That helps out a lot (if you're) playing with him. I'm confident in him."

The 21-year-old Karlsson was Ottawa's top pick (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, while Cowen was snared a year later with the ninth overall selection. Senators head coach Paul MacLean admits being able to watch what develops between the two young hotshots is "kind of exciting."

"They've played really well in the last two games," he said following Senators practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "They really did a good job last night of defending (in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning). With the puck, a little bit, they had some miscues but as a pair, I thought they played real well."

Karlsson habitually logs the most ice time on the Senators blue line, owing in great part to his time spent on the power play. Now he's taking Cowen along for the ride. Karlsson saw 26:22 of action against the Bolts, while Cowen — whose season average is just above 17 minutes — turned in 24:35 worth of duty on Monday night.

"(Cowen) has developed his game a lot and you can see the coaches' trust in him," said Karlsson. "The way he's going right now, you can see he's doing really well and I think he's just going to keep improving. I like playing with him. He's a big, strong guy, but he's also very smart out there and skilled.

"He's a high, high draft pick, so I knew he was going to be a good player. Ever since he came here, he's made the most of his opportunities and progressed a lot. He's doing the things a young guy coming into the league should do and he'll keep improving."

Around the boards

Defenceman Mark Carkner (knee), who has yet to see action this season with the Senators, could be close to remedying that situation. The veteran blueliner is slated to close out his conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday night, then will be recalled to the big club. While MacLean said he won't be inserted into the lineup Thursday, when the Senators meet the Devils in Newark, N.J. (7 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200)  there's a chance he could see action Saturday when the Vancouver Canucks visit Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) ... Centre Peter Regin (shoulder) shed the no-contact jersey during practice today, then said afterward he believes he's still on track to return to game action by mid-December. "That was the goal and I’m confident I can make that,” he said. “I hope I’m playing before Christmas, for sure. It has been a long time and it's been tough to be on the sideline, so I’m really looking forward to getting back in a game.” ... MacLean plans to give Craig Anderson his seventh straight goaltending start when the Washington Capitals arrive at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday night (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200), then turn to backup Alex Auld against the Devils.  

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