The Calgary Flames missed the playoffs last season by five points.

That handful of points added up to the difference between a shot at the Stanley Cup -- the Los Angeles Kings earned the eighth seed and went on to win the title -- and finishing ninth.

Had the Flames been a strong shootout team, they probably would have been in the second season, but they were a putrid 3-9 in games which reached the skills competition, the second-worst among the league's 30 squads.

In a 48-game season, expect that margin between success and failure to be even smaller.

Therefore, expect more emphasis on practising and preparing for showdown games worth the third point.

"If you look at the first 48 games (last year), the difference between 4th and 12th might be four or five points," said Flames forward Alex Tanguay, who returned to skating with the others at the WinSport Ice Complex Thursday. "Those points are going to be crucial and certainly for us, it's going to be key.

"Once we get into those situations, we have to make sure that we do what's needed to be done and we get those points."

By no means will being a better shootout team be a guarantee the Flames will end their playoff drought. First and foremost, they have to drum up a whack of regulation-time wins.

Besides, the Flames were 9-7 in shootout games during the 2010-11 season and it wasn't good enough.

Still, as Michael Cammalleri pointed out, shootout success -- for example, the New Jersey Devils were 12-4 last season -- would be a "game-changer".

"It'll be important. There's definitely going to be an emphasis on that. But you've got to look at it the right way," Cammalleri said. "Our coaches have already looked into that, I know, in great detail. It'll be something we'll focus on and work on, but not something we'll add pressure to.

"It's not something we want to make bigger than it is. We know how important it is, but we'll have to work on it in a positive, confident manner."

What's strange about shootouts is how fleeting success can be.