FORT LAUDERDALE – Nick Cousins is getting back in the game.

Last taking the ice in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, the veteran forward will be in the lineup when the Florida Panthers attempt to close out the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place on Friday.

With Cousins slotting back in, Kyle Okposo is expected to come out.

“It’s his turn to draw in,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “I really liked where Kyle was at. Not that he had a game that changed my mind, but I thought he deserved, based on play, to stay in. The switch was kind of there. I thought if there was a Game 6 that Nick could go.”

Based on the line rushes during Thursday’s practice at Baptist Health IcePlex, Cousins will be playing on the right side of the fourth line alongside Kevin Stenlund and Ryan Lomberg.

A frequently used trio during the regular season, Cousins, Stenlund and Lomberg spent 57:19 together at 5-on-5, according to In that time, the opposition did not score a single goal. In these playoffs, they’ve spent 30:13 of ice time together.

Given that familiarity, they should be able to get off to a good start in Game 6.

“Speed, energy, camaraderie,” said Lomberg, who got back into the lineup in Game 5 after an extended absence of his own. “We’ve kind of been doing it together for a couple years here. I’m excited to have him back in there and go out there and try to win a hockey game.”

With the Oilers having last change in Game 6, the re-insertion of Cousins into the lineup – as well as Lomberg’s recent return – should give the Panthers the necessary speed on their fourth line should Edmonton try to get Connor McDavid out there against them at times.

No stranger to playing in big games for the Panthers, Cousins, a veteran of 62 career NHL playoff games, famously scored the series-clinching goal in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs on the road in Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Second Round.

After watching from the sidelines for a bit, it's safe to say he's ready to make an impact.

“Those guys that have kind of come in and out of the lineup, you can just tell that it’s not easy for them,” Maurice said of rotating players in and out of the fourth line. “But in their off-time, and being under less game intensity, they come back in and they’re jacked.”


One player should also be jacked up for Game 6 is Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

After getting some reps on the top power-play unit in Game 5, the 32-year-old veteran defenseman was still quarterbacking Florida’s top unit during this morning’s practice.

Heading into Game 6, it looks like he’ll stick in that spot.

"This is what he's done for his entire life,” Maurice said of the skilled Swede. "He used to drive me nuts [when I coached against him]. ... He's relishing it. He gets back in his wheelhouse. We liked it.”

Finding success with the extra attacker throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Panthers have struggled to crack Edmonton’s stalwart penalty kill in the Stanley Cup Final.

In addition to going just 1-for-16 with the man advantage through five games, they also surrendered a shorthanded goal in the first period of their losses in both Games 4 and 5.

Ekman-Larsson certainly has more than enough experience on the power play. Since making his NHL debut in 2009-10, he ranks eighth among NHL defensemen with 2,921:58 of ice time with the man advantage.

In the 2:01 he spent on the power play in Game 5, the Panthers recorded three scoring chances.

With Ekman-Larsson’s promotion, Brandon Montour is expected to shift to the second unit.

“He’s a good option there,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s a lefty and Monty’s a righty, so that gives us a little different look. He’s been there for his whole life. He knows what to do there.”


Evan Rodrigues can play anywhere.

That statement is evidenced by the fact that he honestly really has in these playoffs.

Registering a goal and an assist after shifting from the first to second line in Game 5, the speedy forward will remain there with Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk to start Game 6.

“I try to adjust my game a little bit, try to get my linemates the freedom to play their game,” Rodrigues said of his ability to move around. “I kind of adjust my game a little bit and try to bring energy. Sometimes switching things up just gives everyone a little spark.”

On fire in the Stanley Cup Final, Rodrigues leads Florida in both goals (4) and points (6).

“He works hard every day on and off the ice,” forward Anton Lundell said. “That’s the biggest key.”



Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart

Evan Rodrigues – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk

Eetu Luostarinen – Anton Lundell – Vladimir Tarasenko

Ryan Lomberg – Kevin Stenlund – Nick Cousins

Extras: Steven Lorentz, Kyle Okposo, Jonah Gadjovich


Gustav Forsling – Josh Mahura

Niko Mikkola – Brandon Montour

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Dmitry Kulikov

Extras: Tobias Bjornfot, Uvis Balinskis


Sergei Bobrovsky

Anthony Stolarz

Spencer Knight

Did no skate: Aaron Ekblad