OTTAWA -- Jared Cowen's time has arrived and a lot sooner than he ever imagined.
The 19-year-old defenseman from Allan, Sask., will make his National Hockey League debut tonight, when the Ottawa Senators face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum. Cowen recently finished his third season in Spokane where he played 59 games and earned a career high 30 points.
Cowen, the Senators' top pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is being inserted into the lineup in place of Anton Volchenkov, who is being given a night off in preparation for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin next week.
"That’s more maintenance than anything," Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray told The Team 1200 earlier today. "If we were in the playoffs, he could play and would play. We just want him 100 per cent healthy when we start the playoffs."
Instead, it'll be Cowen manning the blue line tonight, just eight days after his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs. He joined the Senators earlier this week and is understandably eager to see his first NHL action tonight. Cowen's parents, Brian and Cara, are flying in from Saskatoon to witness their son's special night.
"Tonight, he’s going to play a very simple game," Murray said of the 6-5, 218 pound Cowen. "I don’t think you’re going to see anything fancy or anything special. His style of play is that he’s a shutdown guy (with) great range defensively.
"He’s just a kid, though. He has to find a little more urgency in his game. He has to get a little quicker, he has to get a little more mobile, but he’s 19 years old. Those things are going to come."
The Lightning also present an imposing challenge offensively, with the likes of Steven Stamkos — a 47-goal scorer who is contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy — in their lineup.
"It is a tough team to put him in against tonight," said Murray. "They can light you up, so it is a different situation for him to go into. But he has to play his first game sometime and we’re happy he can do it tonight."
UPDATE 8:05pm: Cowen didn't have much of an impact in his debut.
He saw the ice for 6:46 seconds the entire game. The only other mark he made on the stat sheet was a two-minute minor for hooking in the second period.
With that said, Cowen is just 19-years-old and he's playing in the NHL.