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More lineup changes coming for Panthers in Game 6, including a swap on the power play

The Florida Panthers are making a pair of changes for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, their third chance to wrap up the series and win the Cup for the first time in franchise history.

The most notable of the two: Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is replacing Brandon Montour on Florida’s top power-play unit as the Panthers try to get a spark on their special teams.

Ekman-Larsson took over the role late in Game 5, a 5-3 Florida loss, after Montour had a turnover at the blue line that led to Edmonton’s Connor Brown scoring a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to give the Oilers an early 1-0 lead. It was the second consecutive game in which the Panthers gave up a shorthanded goal.

And the veteran defenseman is no newcomer to the power play. Ekman-Larsson ran the top unit for the first 16 games of the season while Montour was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and has run Florida’s second unit since then.

During the course of his 14-year NHL career, Ekman-Larsson has scored 59 power-play goals and has 186 points total on the man advantage.

“This is what he’s done his entire life,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “The composure that he has at the top I think sets him apart and he’s relishing it. It’s back to his wheelhouse.”

Added Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, who is on the top power-play unit: “He’s a good option there. Monty is a righty. He’s a lefty. That gives us a little bit of a different look, but he knows what to do there.”

The other change Maurice is making: Nick Cousins is slated to draw into the lineup for Kyle Okposo. Cousins will be on the right wing of the fourth line, with Ryan Lomberg on the left wing and Kevin Stenlund at center.

It’s the latest in the revolving door of the Panthers’ fourth line. Maurice has flipped wingers on the bottom line frequently throughout the final two rounds of the playoffs when he needs a spark. Generally, the moves come in pairs. Lomberg and Cousins are one option. Steven Lorentz and Okposo are the other.

For Game 5, Maurice only inserted Lomberg for Lorentz and while keeping Okposo in the lineup. Maurice said the plan was to move Cousins in should the series extend to Game 6.

“Those guys that have come in and out of the lineup, you can just tell that it’s not easy for them,” Maurice said, “but in their off time when they’re under less game intensity, they come into the game jacked. I thought Ryan was really good [in Game 5]. It’s [Cousins’] turn to draw in.”

As for Cousins, who will be playing in his first game of the Stanley Cup Final series, his excitement to get into the game is palpable.

“Just watching, I think I can help these guys create some energy,” Cousins said. “I’ve got fresh legs, too, which is important this time of year. Just come in and try to help the boys get one win. That’s all you can really ask for.”