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 — such as 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: 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 mind-set 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 on12 of 35 (34 percent), and 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 after the previous lockout in 2005.
Although he is pretty good at them, Kovalev doesn’t particularly like the shootout and said 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 were 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 too valuable to waste.”
Mike Santos, the Panthers assistant general manager, said Tuesday morning that he hadn’t spoken to Dmitry Kulikov’s agent “in the past 48 hours.”
Kulikov, an unsigned restricted free agent, remained on the roster for Yaroslavl Lokamotiv of the KHL, although he wasn’t in the lineup for Tuesday night’s game.
Santos said that Kulikov, as a free agent, was free to play in the KHL, although the Panthers own his NHL rights. There has been talk that Kulikov is on his way back from Russia, although Santos said he didn’t know where he was.
Kulikov could be signed to an offer sheet from another NHL team, but the Panthers would be able to match it.
“I wouldn’t consider it close, but we’re going to keep working at it,” Santos said. “I would like to get him signed.”
• Defenseman Erik Gudbranson practiced with the Panthers but remains suspended by the team until he is cleared to play in a game.
Gudbranson injured his shoulder wakeboarding in Canada during the offseason and could start the season playing with Florida’s AHL team in San Antonio.
“There’s no plan right now,” Santos said. “We’re in a short training camp, and it’s a numbers game here right now. We’ll see when he’s ready to go. It could be the end of the week, it could be longer. I don’t know.”
The Panthers will hold a full intersquad scrimmage Wednesday night at their training facility. Dineen said goalies Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen would see extensive action.
• Ed Jovanovski didn’t practice Tuesday. “I want to make sure he’s good to go on Saturday night [for the season opener],” Dineen said.