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

Nick Cousins ​​​​played every game for the Florida Panthers in their run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final and 69 more last season.

Now he will 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 throughout the playoffs, having been absent for the last eight games since the start of the Eastern Conference finals. The disruptive winger brings something new to this series as he replaces Kyle Okposo on Florida's fourth line.

“I should have fresh legs and fresh energy to come in here and help the guys win,” Cousins ​​said after morning practice. “I'm just trying to come in and play my game. Hold on to some pucks and build energy.”

Coach Paul Mauricewho substituted one or two fourth-line wingers in every Panthers loss in these playoffs, attributed Cousins' absence to the fact that General Manager Bill Zito had hired Okposo and Fellow striker Vladimir Tarasenko at the trade deadline. That depth has helped them get this far and given the coaching staff a variety of options.

Cousins ​​is the last button to be pushed.

“We've found that the players who come out and then come back in are never afraid to make a mistake,” Maurice said, praising Ryan Lomberg's play when he made his series debut in Game 5. “They come in with excitement. They're sitting out, they don't like that. It's not a negative feeling. It's that they really want to be there.”

Cousins ​​wanted to be there, but tried to handle the suspension like a pro.

“It doesn't really change my personality,” he said. “I just go into it 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 us this far.”

Oiler D

Evan Bouchard has rightly gotten a lot of attention for his 32 points, second only to Connor McDavid in the playoffs. His 26 assists are the most by a defenseman in an NHL postseason. But the Oilers are only in the finals because coach Kris Knoblauch made a change in the last round, adding Philip Broberg to the lineup and reeling off three straight wins to beat Dallas.

Broberg scored two goals in eight strong games and was on the ice for almost 16 minutes each night.

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

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AP NHL Playoffs: And

Anna Harden

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