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SHOOTOUT!: #FlaPanthers Hope to Be Better at Them

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Had the Panthers been a little better in overtime and games decided by shootouts last season, perhaps they wouldn't have had to sweat out making the playoffs at the end of last season.

Florida went 6-11 in shootout games last season as it edged Washington for the Southeast Division title by two points.

A few more shootout wins -- and taking the extra point that comes with a victory -- would have added up and made things substantially easier.

By bringing in a few skilled forwards -- like Alex Kovalev, Peter Mueller, Marek Svatos and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau -- the Panthers hope to have rectified that problem.

"High-end skill is something you look forward to seeing in a shootout,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "We have some quality options. We were not a good shootout team last year, didn't have a good overtime record. There's an area we're looking at trying to pick up and be more effective.''

The Panthers were near the bottom of the league in shootout winning percentage as their 11 losses were second-most behind Montreal (12).

Florida's 13 goals was tied for 15th, although its shooting percentage of 22.4 percent was 25th.

"Shootouts are big because they've taken over the game,'' said Mueller, who has been successful on 41 percent of his shootout chances over his career.

"You look back and it's the difference between teams in the playoffs. It can go either way. But you have to go in with the mindset that we're getting those two points.''

Kovalev is 19 for 47 (40 percent) and scored on four of 10 chances with Ottawa and Pittsburgh two seasons ago. Svatos has hit on 12 of 35 (34 percent) while Huberdeau was an impressive 10-for-12 in the past three seasons in the Quebec junior league.

Last year, Stephen Weiss hit on three of eight shootout shots; Kris Versteeg and Marcel Goc were a combined 2-for-15.

"I have a great record in shootouts, but the goalies are a little better here in the NHL,'' Huberdeau said with a smile. "But you know, I'm going to make my move and see what happens if I get the call.''

Kovalev has been most impressive in shootouts since the practice was introduced to the NHL following the previous lockout in 2005.

Although he is pretty good at them, Kovalev doesn't particularly like the shootout and says he liked the old way of settling NHL regular season games: five minutes of overtime with the game ending in a tie if no one scored during that span. Kovalev added that if was in charge, he would get rid of shootouts.

"I'm not a big fan of the shootout but I know they want more points, more fun for the fans,'' Kovalev said. "Hopefully we don't go to many shootouts. We want to win in regulation. But I know what I need to do. I know I can help. You go first and score, it elevates the other shooters, your goalie. Points are just to valuable to waste.''