Florida Panthers Make Lineup Changes Ahead of Game 6

Florida Panthers Lineup Changes

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 20: Nick Cousins #21 of the Florida Panthers takes the second period shot against Warren Foegele #37 and the Edmonton Oilers at Amerant Bank Arena on November 20, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Sunrise, FL – The Florida Panthers are going into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final with some lineup changes and a different look on their power play.

Ever since defenseman Brandon Montour returned from injury back in November, the Panthers’ first power play unit has remained largely unchanged: Montour was the quarterback at the top of the zone, along with Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart, and Carter Verhaeghe on the ice, as well.

Lineup Changes

However, during Florida’s pre-flight practice on Thursday, Montour was moved down to the second power play group with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson moving to the top unit.

The Panthers have gone 1-for-16 on the man advantage against the Edmonton Oilers, who, themselves, possessed the best penalty kill in the postseason entering the Cup Final, killing over 90 percent of their penalties.

Games 4 and 5 both started with Edmonton scoring on Florida’s power play early in the first period. The Panthers would go on to lose both of those games and allow the Oilers to climb back into the series after the Cats took a commanding 3-0 lead.

Ekman-Larsson ended the game on the first power play unit, taking the role from Montour on the third and final Florida power play of Game 5 — an abbreviated one as Edmonton committed a penalty during their man advantage.

The Swedish defenseman had held that QB1 role in the first month and a half of the season while Montour recovered from an injury sustained in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In that time, Ekman-Larsson had one goal and four assists, but was solid as a facilitator at the blue line. Since Montour returned on Nov. 17, Ekman-Larsson has played with the second unit.

This is what he’s done for his entire life,” said Panthers head coach Paul Maurice, who used to coach against Ekman-Larsson out west as the bench boss of the Winnipeg Jets. “He used to drive me nuts. When you’re out in the west, you see their team a bunch of times. … the composure he has at the top, I think sets him apart. He’s relishing it. He’s back in his wheelhouse.

More Adjustments

The Panthers also made changes to their 5-on-5 forward lines. Left-winger Evan Rodrigues, who has played on the first line for the last few games, swapped with Carter Verhaeghe to the second line during Thursday’s practice. Nick Cousins, who has been a healthy scratch since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers, took rushes with the fourth line in place of Kyle Okposo.

The fourth line of Ryan Lomberg, Kevin Stenlund, and Cousins will inject some speed into a fourth line that has struggled to keep up with the high-flying Oilers.

Game 6 is on Friday at 8 pm ET in Edmonton.


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