Craig Anderson stayed for the entire workout, the first time he has done that since suffering his bruised ankle on Feb. 21. Afterwards, he said, “I think it’s just a matter of getting the timing and rhythm back and making sure you feel comfortable,” before returning for a game.
Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington , The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Following the appearance of goaltender Craig Anderson and defenceman Jared Cowen at Ottawa Senators practice Wednesday, you half expected to see centre Jason Spezza, left winger Milan Michalek and defenceman Erik Karlsson step out of the training room to take part in the workout.
That didn’t happen, but after so many dismal days of injury news for the Senators, just seeing the No. 1 goaltender and the 6-foot-5, 228-pound defenceman back at practice was a welcome sight for the organization.
Anderson stayed for the entire workout, the first time he has done that since suffering a bruised ankle on Feb. 21. Afterwards, he said it was just a matter of getting his timing and rhythm back and making sure he felt comfortable before returning for a game.
Cowen, meanwhile, says it’s a personal goal to return for the playoffs. He left with 10 minutes remaining in practice Wednesday, missing the tough skating drills to conclude the workout. When he underwent hip surgery in November, it was believed a full recovery would take six-to-eight months and, at the time, the Senators dismissed any suggestions he would play at any point this season.
Senators coach Paul MacLean refused to set a time frame for a return for either player, but both will join the team on the road for the club’s six-game, 12-day road trip, beginning next Monday.
Given Spezza (back surgery) and Michalek (knee surgery) could possibly be back in time for the post-season, the Senators’ string of bad injury luck could finally be changing. Even Karlsson (Achilles surgery) refused to rule out a playoff return when speaking to the media Monday.
The potential influx of high-end talent in the next few weeks could alter how general manager Bryan Murray approaches next Wednesday’s trade deadline.
“I’m not sure we could make a trade before the deadline that would give us better players than what we have on the (injured list) right now,” said MacLean. “That’s what (the developments) are to me. If we get them all healthy, we don’t really need to do anything.”
MacLean cautioned, however, that the talk about Cowen’s return was “premature,” saying the defenceman was “a participant, but didn’t really participate” during practice. One of the reasons he was on the ice was to get “a shot of energy and some confidence” following his hard work during rehabilitation.
As much as Cowen wants to get back, he’s not going to risk long-term damage by fixating on a short-term return.
“It’s awesome, but at the same time, I’ve got to kind of step outside the circle from what I’m doing right now and look at the big picture,” said Cowen, who scored five goals, 12 assists and at times dominated physically in his rookie season with the Senators in 2011-12. “I don’t want to rush it. It’s pretty exciting, but I don’t want to re-injure it or re-aggravate it in any way.”
Cowen says the idea of playing this season became a realistic possibility after he saw doctors on Feb. 17, the three-month checkup following the hip surgery. The healing process was ahead of schedule. If the recovery continues on the current path, Cowen will probably be in the lineup before the regular season ends April 27.
“There’s no definite answer, but there’s always a chance,” he said. “From Day One, I’ve always taken small, baby steps. I’ve never thought that just because I want to play, I’m going to take chances. That has been a good recipe so far. I’m going to do what the trainers tell me.”
If Cowen is way ahead of schedule, Anderson acknowledges he had to take a step back in his recovery. The ankle injury was originally diagnosed as “day to day” and Anderson began skating less than a week after it happened. Thursday marks the five-week mark since Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers slid into him and knocked him out of the lineup.
“Skating is a lot different than trying to play goalie,” he said. “As far as skating wise, I really didn’t have a whole lot of pain, but you don’t know until you try to get back into the position.”
Anderson says he’ll have to deal with some pain.
“There’s always going to be discomfort for quite awhile with this kind of injury.”