Nick Cousins TONIGHT bug

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Nick Cousins will replace Kyle Okposo on the fourth line for the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Friday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

Cousins, who  has not played since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, will play right wing alongside Ryan Lomberg at left wing and Kevin Stenlund at center.

The Panthers lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 after the Oilers won Games 4 and 5 by a combined score of 13-4 following losing the first three games.

“I'm excited to come in and help the boys,’’ said Cousins, who has one assist in 11 games this postseason and has been scratched for eight straight games. “I think I can help, create some energy, and I have fresh legs, which are certainly important this time of year.”

Florida is looking for more speed on the fourth line, which Lomberg and Cousins each provide.

“Those guys who kind of come in and out of lineup, you know it’s not easy on them, but … they come in and they are jacked,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said Thursday before the team flew to Edmonton.

Maurice has changed up the fourth line throughout the playoffs -- sometimes by necessity when second-line center Sam Bennett was injured in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- and usually switches out two forwards at a time.

Steven Lorentz and Okposo have been one set of fourth-line forwards; Lomberg and Cousins are the other, with Stenlund the constant.

Before Game 5, Maurice replaced Lorentz with Lomberg but kept Okposo on the right side.

Okposo has two assists in 16 games during the playoffs, but no points in seven straight games since entering the lineup for Game 4 of the conference finals, following four games as a scratch. The 36-year-old, who was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on March 8, had no points in six regular-season games after the trade, and 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 61 games with the Sabres.

“I really liked where [Okposo] was at and, it’s not he had a game that changed my mind and he deserved to stay in,” Maurice said. “But I thought, if there was a Game 6, the switch would be there.”

Cousins said he is excited to get back in but knows a lot is at stake on Friday; a victory will give the Panthers the first Stanley Cup championship in their history.

On the Florida roster, only Vladimir Tarasenko (2019 with the St. Louis Blues) and Carter Verhaeghe (2020, Tampa Bay) have won the Cup.

“Get one win, and that is all you can really ask for at this time of year,’’ said Cousins, who had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 69 games this season. “At this point in June, usually the season is over. This is Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and we have a chance to win the whole thing.’’

Lomberg said he is looking forward to heading back to Edmonton -- and to be back playing with Cousins.

“We have kind of been doing it together it for a couple years here,” Lomberg said. “I'm excited to have him back as we go up there and try to win a hockey game.”

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