The Ottawa Senators are like more than half the league's teams right now and are gearing up for the stretch run/playoffs. In their case in particular, that means getting healthy as much as anything. The latest return to the lineup is 6-foot-5 defenseman Jared Cowen.
The Sens have had multiple high-profile injuries this season. Erik Karlsson has been out since February and might not be back at all this season, Jason Spezza has been missing since almost the beginning as well. Then there were Milan Michalek and Craig Anderson, who both recently returned.
On the lesser-known side is Cowen.
A rookie last season, Cowen was a solid find for the Sens on the blue line a year ago. He played all 82 regular-season games, recording five goals and 12 assists while averaging nearly 19 minutes. In addition, he was the team's new big hitter and was a key part of the defensive corps.
"We believe he's a world-class player and makes us a better team," Sens coach Paul MacLean said Tuesday.
Cowen was injured during the lockout while playing with AHL Binghamton. He underwent a hip surgery that they believed would end his season -- much the same as they said about Karlsson. Obviously, Cowen beat the timeline.
"When they told me I wasn't going to play all year, the goal was always to do my best to come back -- even though they said not to," Cowen said.
While he's certainly not the caliber of returning player that Spezza or Karlsson would be, it's still a very nice surprise for the Sens. As we know, it takes more than a couple of star players to win in the playoffs; you need a full squad.
Considering what Ottawa has done with all these players out, it would be really interesting to see this team get to full strength for the playoffs. It would be ideal to get a couple of games under their belts in the regular season as a unit, but you take what you can get. If they are all able to return, then Ottawa becomes a pretty dangerous low seed in the East.