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Nick Cousins Gets Chance at Jason Zucker. He Took It

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Jason Zucker and Nick Cousins throw down during the first period Thursday night in Sunrise. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

SUNRISE — Two months after Jason Zucker delivered a hit which kept him out of the Florida Panthers’ lineup for a month with a concussion, Nick Cousins got his shot to get back at him.

Cousins certainly answered the bell.

While with the Arizona Coyotes, Zucker checked Cousins from behind and sent him flying head-first into the boards on Jan. 2.

After a trade sent him to the Nashville Predators, Cousins got his opportunity to right a wrong early in Florida’s eventual 3-0 loss on Thursday night.

“That’s hockey,” Cousins told FHN. “That stuff happens when the game is fast, and obviously, I didn’t like what he did in Arizona and I missed some time there.

“I gotta give him credit for answering the bell and getting that out of the way so we can move on and play hockey.”

The injury kept Cousins out of the lineup when the Panthers faced off with the Coyotes in Sunrise a few weeks later.

His teammates stood up for him that night.

Ryan Lomberg, Matthew Tkachuk and Jonah Gadjovich had a discussion at center ice during warm-ups with Zucker and a couple of Arizona’s toughs prior to their meeting on Jan. 24.

Liam O’Brien and Jack McBain took up the offer from Lomberg and Gadjovich; Zucker waited until he got his next opportunity against Cousins to let him answer the bell.

That came Thursday night.

“When stuff like that happens, sometimes you’ve got to answer the bell,” Zucker told The Tennessean.

“It’s about mutual respect within our game,” Zucker added. “Respect goes a long way. I’m not the first guy to do it, and I’m definitely not going to be the last.”

Cousins appreciates his teammates stepping up for him, but he appreciated getting the opportunity to step up for himself even more.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” Cousins said. “That’s the way it’s been all year with our team and I feel like guys stick up for each other.

”We’re a close knit group in this room and guys have each other’s back and it’s nice to be able to answer the bell for myself as well.”

Cousins was one of the lone bright spots in a drubbing by the Predators, earning himself a promotion to the Sasha Barkov-less top line by the start of the third period while logging two shots and four hits.

“I thought Nick was good,” coach Paul Maurice said. “I thought he played hard. Maybe he came to the rink with a little extra juice knowing what he was going to face, so good on Nick. I liked his game and I liked parts of what he did.”

Zucker was suspended three games for his hit on Cousins.

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