Nick Cousins promises good behavior in Stanley Cup Final debut

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Nick Cousins vowed to bring the intensity in his Stanley Cup Final debut. Just not too much of it.

Cousins will replace forward Kyle Okposo in the Florida Panthers' lineup for Friday night's Game 6 at the Edmonton Oilers, returning to play for the first time since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers on May 26. He has one assist in 11 playoff games but is no stranger to unexpectedly big playoff moments, like his overtime goal to eliminate the Maple Leafs in Toronto last postseason.

But Cousins is also known for occasionally stepping over the line and taking penalties. He was fifth on the Panthers in penalties taken per 60 minutes (1.50) in 69 regular-season games, although he has yet to be whistled for a minor penalty in this postseason.

Given that the Edmonton power play is heating up with goals in the past two games, Cousins said avoiding penalties is paramount.

"I think the Oilers' power play is obviously clicking right now. It's been clicking here for the last couple of years. We're aware of that," Cousins said. "We can't take five or six penalties. We've got to make sure that we stay disciplined, play between the whistles and stay out of the scrums and all that kind of stuff. Just focus on the task at hand."

Cousins had a good vantage point for the first five games of the Stanley Cup Final.

"It's a fast game. It's a fast series. I think they obviously skate really well. They're getting contributions from every line, and obviously [Connor] McDavid is playing on a different level right now. I didn't think it was possible for him to elevate his game, but he has," said Cousins. "We need to obviously limit their power play opportunities, and it should set ourselves up for a good chance to win."

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said he has considered Cousins and Okposo as a "pair" when moving them in and out of the lineup. But after Game 3 against the Rangers, the Panthers won their next six games, keeping Cousins off the ice.

Maurice is looking for the forward to bring some energy in Game 6, with the Panthers having dropped two straight games since taking a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

"We found that the players that come out and then come in, they never come in afraid to make a mistake," Maurice said. "They come in wired. They sat out, they don't like it. It's not a negative emotion. They want to be a part of it so bad."

Cousins' teammates are also happy to see him back in the lineup.

Winger Ryan Lomberg, who is expected to skate with Cousins and Kevin Stenlund, praised Cousins' speed, energy and camaraderie, while defenseman Brandon Montour said Cousins provides a spark on and off the ice.

"I think everyone knows who he is," Montour said. "He's obviously a great person to have in the locker room. He brings that emotion that we need. Another guy to keep the room loose, and he's tremendous to just have around the locker room. On the ice he brings that energy.

"I know it's tough for him to be watching these games, especially with the last couple years he's been in the lineup the whole time. He's super excited to be back, so it's nice to see."