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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Florida Panthers Make Lineup Change for Game 6



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Nick Cousins celebrates Steven Lorentz’s third-period goal against the Lightning in Game 3 of the first round on April 25 in Tampa. Cousins returns to the lineup Friday against the Edmonton Oilers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

EDMONTON — After two failed attempts at closing out the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers are calling the number of another fourth-line mainstay: Nick Cousins.

Cousins will get into his first game since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final, taking Kyle Okposo’s spot on the fourth line.

“I’m excited to come in and try to help the boys,”Cousins said.

“Just watching, I think I can help these guys. I think I can create some energy and I’ve got fresh legs, too, which is important at this time of the year, so I just want to come in and help the boys get one win.  That’s all you can really ask for I guess.”

With his usual wingman Ryan Lomberg getting his first spin since the Panthers swapped out their fourth-line wingers midway through the Eastern Conference final in Game 4, Maurice opted to reunite the pair for Game 6 of the Final with Kevin Stenlund.

“Those guys that come in and out of the lineup, you can just tell it’s not easy for them,” coach Paul Maurice said. “But in their off time and when they’re under less game intensity, they come back in and they’re jacked. I thought Ryan was pretty good, so it’s his turn.”

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Cousins has stayed true to himself, no matter how hard it has been to be out of the lineup through certain stretches of the postseason.

Last year, Cousins played in every single game of Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final — and scored the series-clinching overtime winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He spent most of last postseason on the second line alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett.

This year, he has played in 11 of 22 playoff games and has one assist while playing in a fourth-line role.

Still, he comes to the rink with a smile every day and is making jokes from the time he walks in the door and laces up the skates for practice to the time he gets ready to head home.

“Nobody wants to sit out, but at the same time, when I was out of the lineup we went 6-2, so I came to the rink with a good attitude,” Cousins said.

“That’s all you can really ask for. You try to support the boys, come in with the same personality and stay ready because, at this time of year, anything can happen with injuries and stuff like that, so when you’re called upon, you gotta make sure you’re ready to play. And I’m ready to play.”

Aaron Ekblad did not practice on Thursday but Maurice said he was fine and would play on Friday night.

Unlike their previous flight to Edmonton, the Panthers took off without delay on Thursday afternoon.

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