Although the Panthers are pretty deficient in most offensive categories, they should be surprisingly pretty good in shootouts this season.
With two of the NHL’s top shootout-goal collectors in Brad Boyes and Jussi Jokinen — as well as rising specialist Jonathan Huberdeau — Florida should be a tough out when it comes to the game-deciding shootout this season.
“You look at the success our guys have had in the past, and I’m real confident in our shooters when it comes to that,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said before Florida played the host Avalanche late Tuesday night.
“I think we have a good opportunity when we get there.’’
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The Panthers were 0-1 in shootouts heading into Tuesday after losing in an abbreviated three-round match Saturday in Washington.
Florida got a goal from Huberdeau to tie the shootout score at 1, but down 2-1, Jokinen missed. Alex Ovechkin scored on Washington’s third shot leaving Boyes — who leads all active players with 37 shootout goals over the course of his career — on the bench.
Florida has 41 wins to rank 24th in the league since 2005, when shootouts became the deciding factor in games following a five-minute overtime.
Last year, thanks to Boyes and Huberdeau, Florida was tied for sixth in the league with eight shootout wins.
“I think it’s real important we get those two points when we get to a shootout, and we have guys who can score,’’ said Huberdeau, who has scored on seven of his 17 shootout attempts over the past three seasons.
“We have a nice mix of older guys who are real good at them and younger guys who are skilled and can score, too. I’m sure it’s hard on the coach in picking his three shooters.’’
New Jersey would have made the playoffs had it had even moderate success in the shootout last season, but the Devils went 0-13 — not picking up a single extra point in their race for the postseason.
As much as they may not like it, players know those extra points count big come April.
“I like our chances when we get into the shootout,’’ Jokinen said. “We have a lot of guys with skill, and that should help us. We know how important those extra points are in whether or not you make the playoffs. It’s become an important point of the game. Just look at what happened to New Jersey last year.’’
Gallant said Tuesday that having an extra day in Denver could help the Panthers acclimate themselves to the thinner air.
Florida arrived in Colorado early Sunday morning and had two practices at Pepsi Center heading into Tuesday’s game.
“There is some effect, but having two skates will help,’’ Gerard said. “I remember the first time being here as a player and you didn’t think much of it until you hit the ice. After four or five minutes you said, ‘My God, I can barely breathe.’ But you get used to it. Players are in such good shape these days that they overcome it.’’
The Panthers will practice in Denver on Wednesday morning before flying to Phoenix for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes.
▪ Florida was again without center Dave Bolland on Tuesday night after he sustained what Gallant calls a minor lower-body injury Saturday in Washington.