Nick Cousins returns for the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final

nick cousins returns for the florida panthers in game 6 of the stanley cup final

Florida Panthers center Nick Cousins (21) trips over New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff finals, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Nick Cousins played every game of the Florida Panthers' 2023 run to the Stanley Cup Final and 69 more during this past season.

Now, he'll be in the lineup in Game 6 Friday night against the Edmonton Oilers with a chance to win the first championship in franchise history.

Cousins has been in and out of the lineup in the playoffs, a healthy scratch the past eight games dating to early in the Eastern Conference final. The agitating winger brings something different to this series as he replaces Kyle Okposo on Florida's fourth line.

“Should have some fresh legs, some fresh energy to try and come in here and help the guys get a win,” Cousins said after the morning skate. "Just try and come in, play my game. Hang onto some pucks and create some energy.”

Coach Paul Maurice, who has changed up a fourth-line winger or two just about every time the Panthers lost this postseason, chalked up Cousins being out as a product of general manager Bill Zito acquiring Okposo and fellow forward Vladimir Tarasenko at the trade deadline. That depth has helped them get this far and given the coaching staff a bevy of options.

Cousins is the latest button being pushed.

“We found that the players that come out and then come in, they never come in afraid to make a mistake,” Maurice said, complimenting Ryan Lomberg's play when he made his series debut in Game 5. “They come in wired. They sat out, they don’t like it. It’s not a negative emotion. It’s that they want to be a part of it so bad.”

Cousins wanted to be part of it, but he tried to handle sitting out like a professional.

“It doesn’t really change my personality,” he said. “Just come in with a good attitude and support the guys any way I can. I’ll always be a good teammate whether we win or lose. But the guys have done a really good job of getting some wins and getting to us to this point.”

Oilers D

Evan Bouchard has, rightfully so, gotten a lot of attention for his 32 points, second only to Connor McDavid among all scorers in the playoffs, with his 26 assists being the most by a defenseman in an NHL postseason. But the Oilers are only in the final because of a change coach Kris Knoblauch made last round inserting Philip Broberg into the lineup and reeling off three consecutive victories to beat Dallas.

Broberg has two goals in eight strong games, skating just under 16 minutes a night.

“We put him in a difficult situation,” Knoblauch said. "Game 4, Dallas, almost a must-win game and we put him in a situation where he played really well, and since then, he’s only continued to play better and better. We’re very fortunate to have him, and we wouldn’t be in this situation without him. I think he’s helped our team.”

___

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

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