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Nick Cousins Fitting In Nicely with the Florida Panthers

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Nick Cousins is starting to find his stride with the Florida Panthers as he has his first two goals of the season in the past three games — with both being game-winning goals. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — Nick Cousins said it took him a little while to get going with his new Florida Panthers teammates and coach Paul Maurice said some of that was his fault.

As Maurice got to know his new team and was running a shorter bench, Cousins really did not get the kind of playing time it took to gel with some unfamiliar faces.

That led to a couple of nights Cousins spent up in the press box as a healthy scratch, missing games against Philadelphia, Ottawa and Arizona.

Things have certainly picked up.

”It took a little time for him to get comfortable here, to get to know the guys,’’ Maurice said. “His relationships is a big part of his game. If you watch practice, you will see people laughing or joking around when he is around them. He is enjoying it. He has a real positive energy.”

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Cousins scored his first goal three games ago against Carolina and got his second Tuesday night against Washington.

Both of his goals this season served as the game-winners.

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“Each and every game, I am starting to get more comfortable within the system and how we like to play,’’ Cousins said. “I am also getting more comfortable with linemates because I have moved around quite a bit. I think I have played with everyone so far — and have played left wing, right wing and center. It has been a lot of fun so far. I think it has been a good fit.”

In his first seven games this season, Cousins was held off the scoresheet as he averaged around 7 minutes per game.

Since returning to the lineup in San Jose, his minutes have been way up as has his production.

His first assist came in Los Angeles and his first goal against the Hurricanes.

Tuesday night, Cousins saw limited minutes due to the Panthers’ penalty box parade but still made his time count.

In the third period, Gus Forsling spotted him on the right side of the Washington cage and fed him with a long pass.

Cousins pulled in the pass through traffic, drove around Darcy Kuemper and flung the puck home as he was losing his footing. That gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead in what turned out to be a 5-2 win.

The goal was needed padding as the Capitals did pull within a goal midway through the period.

“It was at the end of the shift and I just kind of dumped it in and Chucky made a real nice play to Forsling,” Cousins said. “He saw me on the back door. It was nice being at the right place at the right time. I knew (Kuemper) was going to come over on the pass so I wanted to hand onto it and beat him on the other side.”

As for more playing time, Maurice said that is coming.

“He played a great game (Tuesday) on very few minutes and that is just because he doesn’t kill penalties for us right now,” Maurice said. “He lost a big chunk of that game, but his game is trending very strongly for me. He will get more playing time. He has played well, has really come on.”

With the Panthers’ roster back down to 20, the fourth line seems set with Cousins, Eric Staal and Patric Hornqvist — a trio Maurice likes to say has three Stanley Cups.

“I am still waiting for mine,” Cousins said with a smile. “But you cannot replace that kind of experience and not many teams have that.

“We are very lucky to have those guys. They are two unbelievable guys and I sit right in the middle of both of them so it is easy to communicate with them. They are awesome.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Split 1-1
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 24-19-2, 3 tie

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