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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Ryan Lomberg Back In Florida Panthers Lineup. He’s Not Alone

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Ryan Lomberg, here celebrating his goal against the Capitals with Nick Cousins on Feb. 8, will be back in the lineup tonight in Boston. Cousins will be as well. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

FORT LAUDERDALE — For the first time since the opening game of the Tampa Bay Lightning series, Ryan Lomberg will be back in the lineup for the Florida Panthers tonight in Boston.

Nick Cousins, who has been scratched the past three games with Sam Bennett returning for Game 3 against the Bruins, also returns.

Coach Paul Maurice confirmed those moves to Florida Hockey Now on Thursday afternoon, saying he was “changing out the wings” on Florida’s fourth line.

Lomberg and Cousins practiced with center Kevin Stenlund on Thursday; Kyle Okposo and Steven Lorentz worked as place-holders for Bennett and Sam Reinhart as they took the practice off.

Lomberg did not play in Game 2 of the first-round series of Game 2 due to illness, which also kept him out of Games 3 and 4.

When he was healthy enough to play, Maurice felt Florida’s fourth line was playing too well to make changes.

Lomberg, speaking to FHN on Thursday, said he understood.

Okposo had been in the lineup since Lomberg went out in Game 2 against the Lightning; Lorentz entered that series in Game 3 and scored the game-winning goal in Tampa that day.

“It’s all part of it, and it helps that everyone here has such high character,’’ Lomberg said following practice. “When you’re coming in, the guys you are [replacing] are tapping you on the shin pads, wishing you good luck. Bill Zito did a great job of bringing in great players and high-quality people and it shows in the success of this team.”

Brad Marchand: Sam Bennett ‘Got Away with One,’ But He Isn’t Complaining

Lomberg is one of the most passionate players and hates not playing.

As Maurice pointed out on Thursday, one would not know from his work in practice that he had been scratched.

“Even if you don’t take my word for it,” Maurice said, “you can sit up there and watch the practices. That’s a tell of the guys who are in the playoffs, how they fit, how they feel. They’re still chirping, still completely part of it. They have been great.

“This is what it’s all about; the whole thing right? The energy, the juice, the ups and downs. … This is the special time in hockey. As players — and coaches — get older, you learn to appreciate so much more. It’s hard to get here. When you get here, you have to enjoy it. Those guys were critical pieces last year, and at times, they’ll be critical pieces this year.’’

As for Lomberg, he has been working to get back into the lineup.

He gets that chance tonight.

“You want to help your team win,’’ Lomberg said. “But this is part of the game. Obviously it is not totally bad because it shows how deep we are and it is on us, as pros, to stay ready whenever you are out and stay positive. When you get back in, be ready to go.’’

But, he said, as long as the Panthers are winning, he was not going to disturb things.

Sitting in the playoffs is better than the alternative.

“I would rather be fighting to play on this team than being in Cancun watching the playoffs on TV,” Lomberg said, causing Lorentz to laugh.

“I might be having some cervezas right now.”

Instead, he’s getting ready to play in a big postseason game.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. BOSTON BRUINS (ATL2)
FLORIDA LEADS BEST-OF-7 SERIES 3-2
GAME 6

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