Cowen back to full speed in a hurry

Whenever Erik Karlsson returns to the Ottawa Senators’ lineup, the team can only hope he finds his old form on the blue-line as quickly as Jared Cowen has rediscovered his place following his surprisingly early return from surgery.

Jared Cowen provides traffic in front of Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun on Monday night while Brandon Sutter tries to clear out the Sens' big blue-liner. Photo by Jean Levac/The Ottawa Citizen.

Whenever Erik Karlsson returns to the Ottawa Senators’ lineup, the team can only hope he finds his old form on the blue-line as quickly as Jared Cowen has rediscovered his place following his surprisingly early return from surgery.
Karlsson once again took part in the morning skate Monday and could see action before the end of the regular season. That, however, was background noise to all the attention surrounding Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke, who sliced the back of Karlsson’s leg on Feb. 13, resulting in Achilles tendon surgery.
Now that the rematch against Cooke has come and gone, the biggest questions surrounding Karlsson are when he will return to the lineup and what kind of impact he could have.
If his comeback is as seamless as Cowen’s recovery from hip surgery has been in his four games since returning, the Senators would be ecstatic.
“I think it was easier to come back than I thought it would be,” Cowen said before Monday’s game against the Penguins.
“I was expecting it to be really hard. I had only played the one year (the 2011-12 season was his rookie campaign). I don’t feel like I’m where I should be at this time of the regular season, but I still feel pretty good. I don’t have a lot to complain about, in terms of where I am right now. Maybe (improving) a little bit on the timing.”
In some ways, Cowen is the anti-Karlsson. At 6-5 and 230 pounds, he’s primarily charged with stopping goals, not creating them. In the first three games of his return, he had no points, but had delivered 11 hits, including the bone-jarring open-ice hit against Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes in his first game back. In his second game against Washington, he played 21:43.
“Just getting bumped around the entire (first game) felt good,” Cowen said. “I don’t know why it does that, but you get a feel for the game. Everyone said that first game was a good game, but I thought the better game was the second one, and then the third one, just cutting down on the mistakes.”
The 22-year-old Cowen, however, isn’t about to offer any advice to the 22-year-old Karlsson on the adjustment to returning to a lineup in the final stages of the regular season.
“He knows,” Cowen said. “He’s not a rookie, and it is way easier to come back when you’ve already played a lot of games. Even for me, playing last year, that helped quite a bit. I thought it would be a really big chore to fit in, to get a feel for all the systems. I was happy with the progression I went through.”
MORROW DEFENDS COOKE
Penguins left-winger Brendan Morrow was with the Dallas Stars when Cooke cut Karlsson, but he came to Cooke’s defence Monday.
“I don’t know one guy who would go on the ice with the intention of slicing somebody’s leg,” Morrow said. “This is just something that happens. I got some tendons cut in a wrist befroe. Last thing I did was blaming (Radim) Vrbata to try and intentionally skate on my arm. I guess it’s just a fast game.”
PRE-PLAYOFF GAMESMANSHIP
On Monday morning, Senators coach Paul MacLean said he hadn’t yet made any plans to change his roster from Saturday. That was a surprise to the media, considering that Matt Kassian stayed on the ice late at the morning skate along with the healthy scratches and the fact that Guillaume Latendresse said he was taking Kassian’s spot in the lineup. Was MacLean’s ploy a move to force Penguins coach Dan Byslma to dress heavyweight Steve MacIntyre? Sure appears so. While both Kassian and Latendresse took part in the pre-game warm-up, Kassian was a healthy scratch come game time. … The Senators dressed to impress the more than 1,100 Canadian Armed Forces members in attendance Monday by wearing their version of army fatigues for the pre-game warm-up — camouflage jerseys. The sweaters will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Military Families Fund.

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