Having led his teammates through the morning stretch at practice today, Senators sophomore defenseman Jared Cowen announced to the media that he would be in the lineup versus Carolina.
Cowen, if you'll remember started the the locked out season playing in Binghamton. His stint with the B-Sens only lasted three games before a tear in his hip labrum necessitated surgery. With recovery pegged at 6-9 months the common belief was that his season was done.
Cowen: "From the time they told me I wasn’t going to play this year, I always had in the back of my mind, ‘Screw that – I want to play.’"
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) March 27, 2013
As awesome as it is to see Cowen back in the lineup ahead of schedule, one wonders and hopes that he hasn't rushed things and is 100%, or close to it.
Ottawa is fortunate to have Cowen back with seven games left in the regular season. Though he had been skating on his own and with the team these past few weeks, this number of games should be enough time for him to get back into game shape and hone his timing.
As a rookie, Cowen tallied 5 goals and 17 points in 82 games, playing on the team's second pairing with Sergei Gonchar. During today's practice, Paul MacLean had him paired with Eric Gryba — an indication that the coaching staff is going to break him in slowly (or quickly, depending on what you think of Gryba and his limitations). But with Wiercioch's surprising emergence as a top four option, there's no guarantee Cowen winds up alongside his old partner.
Here are Gonchar's WOWY's (with or without you) with Wiercioch in 2012/13:
|GONCHAR + WIERCIOCH||259:33||57.1||57.9|
|GONCHAR – WIERCIOCH||340:06||44.4||47.2|
|WIERCIOCH – GONCHAR||175:00||60.0||52.9|
And with Cowen in 2011/12:
|GONCHAR + COWEN||648:18||38.3||50.4|
|GONCHAR – COWEN||563:06||57.5||51.0|
|COWEN – GONCHAR||175:00||52.1||53.2|
While Wiercicoh plays more on the power-play and Cowen more shorthanded, the interesting thing is that MacLean's usage of both players in their rookie season's 5on5 has been very similar as far as zonestarts and quality of competiton — which makes this sort of comparison pretty fair. Gonchar and Wiercicoh has obviously produced great results here, which is not to say that Cowen-Gonchar is a bad option, especially if the coaching staff is looking for more "balance".
In any case Mac's got more options, which is a welcome change.