Big Numbers for Big Cowen

Suddenly, Jared Cowen is sporting Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger-type numbers.

He’s on the ice almost half the time for the Ottawa Senators.

In Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Cowen played 25:43, matched up much of that time against the Sedin twins. In Thursday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, the rookie defenceman hit a season high of 31:42, playing against, well, just about everyone. He clocked 28:22 on Dec. 3 against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals and 24:20 the following game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, guarding Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.

Those are impressive numbers for the 20-year-old Cowen, who has a mere 30 National Hockey League games under his belt, and yet there’s more.

While Erik Karlsson’s offensive skills have drawn more attention, Cowen has been arguably just as important for the Senators because of his solid defence. On a team that has allowed 14 more goals than it has scored, he has a minus-2 rating. He hasn’t been on the negative side for six consecutive games.

Clearly, the six-foot-five, 230-pound defenceman has made himself at home in the big leagues.

“It’s nice, I don’t mind playing that many minutes,” said Cowen, selected ninth overall in the 2009 NHL draft. “I think they trust me and realize I can play in more situations than just the safer ones. That’s good for me. I feel more comfortable in the hot spots and on the penalty kill. I feel better and I’m playing against the top lines. I’m used to doing that in other leagues, and it’s just a transition to doing it in this league, as well.”

Like most players, Cowen relishes playing as much as possible, and coach Paul MacLean has treated him like a veteran in recent games, leaning on him because of injuries to Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba.

“He’s playing real well,” MacLean said. “He’s a young player, but we’ve said it before: He has probably been our most consistent young player and he’s getting better and better. When you play well, you should play.”

Cowen certainly isn’t complaining about the increased playing time. He isn’t thinking about it much, either.

“When you’re playing more, it just feels more natural,” he said. “You just do the things. You don’t analyse it. That’s the way it should be. That’s when you’re playing your best.”

With the increased ice time comes offensive confidence and he’s content with his modest numbers (two goals, three assists). His biggest impact on the team comes when he uses his size effectively, taking care of his own end physically.

If there’s anything he quibbles about in the numbers beside his name, it’s his hit count of 74 for the season, second on the team behind forward Nick Foligno’s 84. Off-ice officials in some buildings are less likely to credit a hit to visiting players.

“I’ve felt pretty physical the last few games,” Cowen said. “The stat sheet might not show it, but they’re always sleeping up there or something. It’s funny. I feel good about the physical part. It’s just as important as anything in my game.”

 

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