Underrated Cowen among top NHL rookies

When the NHL considers its weekly three stars today, the Ottawa Senators figure to have three players on the list: defenceman Jared Cowen, who had two goals and three assists over the last week; Jason Spezza, who had three goals and five assists; and Erik Karlsson, who had four assists, including the rare feat of three in one period against Pittsburgh.

Underrated Cowen among top NHL rookies
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

When the NHL considers its weekly three stars today, the Ottawa Senators figure to have three players on the list: defenceman Jared Cowen, who had two goals and three assists over the last week; Jason Spezza, who had three goals and five assists; and Erik Karlsson, who had four assists, including the rare feat of three in one period against Pittsburgh.
Spezza’s probably the favourite, and it’ll be surprising if he’s not named.
But the one who will benefit most, even if he is not among the three stars, will be Cowen, because he just raised his profile in the rookie-of-the-year race a couple of notches.
In the end, he probably doesn’t have much chance. This is a strong rookie class led by Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Stay-at-home defencemen like Cowen are just not that sexy. There was some joking in the dressing room that it might help if Cowen went to Karlsson’s hair stylist.
But sexy doesn’t matter to Cowen’s teammates. Just listen to Spezza, who doesn’t hide where his vote would go if he had one.
“He won’t get the attention that the offensive guys get, but I think he’s equally or more important to our team than any of those guys will be to their team,” he said. “He’s playing big minutes for us, but because he’s not a flashy player he may get overlooked when it comes to awards. But he’s going to be a guy who’s going to play a long, long time and have a real successful career, and be a stalwart for us.”
Because he’s a competitive guy, Cowen would like to think he’s in the rookie-of-the-year mix, but he’s also realistic.
“I think about it, but I’m not going to change what I do to get noticed, because usually when you do that, things go wrong,” he said. “If I get noticed, it means I’m doing well. I’ve been scoring points lately, but it’s just the result of me playing well, not straying away from the way I usually play.
“I’ll get points, but just not as much as the other guys.”
With the return of Sergei Gonchar (upper-body injury) and Filip Kuba (shoulder injury), Cowen’s ice time, which has increased in the veterans’ absence to between 25 and 27 minutes a game, could well be reduced, which he accepts. But he believes he’s made a point.
“It’s been good for me to have that chance to play that many minutes and to show them I can do well,” he said.

THE SENATORS THIS WEEK

Tuesday, Buffalo at Ottawa, 7: 30 p.m., Scotiabank Place.
TV: TSN, TVA Sports. Radio: The Team 1200 AM, CKOI 104.7 FM.

Just last week, the Senators got out of Buffalo with a 3-2 overtime win, prompting the Sabres to hold a players-only meeting. It hasn’t gone well for them recently. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 and coming off an 8-3 loss to the Penguins.
However, the Sabres are good on the road – 8-4-0 – and they’ve already beaten the Senators twice this season, 3-2 in a shootout and 5-1.

Thursday: Florida at Ottawa, 7: 30 p.m., Scotiabank Place.
TV: Sportsnet Sens. Radio: The Team 1200 AM, CKOI 104.7 FM.

In the first meeting between the teams, the Senators beat the Panthers 4-3 back on Oct. 27 at Scotiabank Place. The Panthers, one of the surprises in the Eastern Conference, are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and 10-7-1 on the road. The Senators are 8-7-1 at home.
Their differential of minus-14 is fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference.

Friday: Ottawa at Carolina, 7: 30 p.m., RBC Center.
TV: Sportsnet, TVA Sports. Radio: The Team 1200 AM.

Changing the coach hasn’t helped much in Raleigh. The Hurricanes are 2-7-1 in their last 10 and 6-9-2 at home. Their differential of minus-29 is the worst in the league. In their first trip to Raleigh, the Senators hung on for a 3-2 win.

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