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GAME: Florida Panthers (5-4-0) at Pittsburgh Penguins (0-4-4).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't envision going this far into the season without a victory when they made Sidney Crosby the top pick in this year's draft.

Crosby and the Penguins hope to end their winless streak at eight games when they host the Florida Panthers.

Before this year, Pittsburgh's longest season-opening winless streak was six games when it went 0-3-3 in 1969-70.

"I just want to win," said Crosby, who hasn't led the Penguins to victory despite registering a point in seven of eight games. "Team points is what matters."

Crosby said last month he felt lucky because most No. 1 draft picks play for losing clubs while he landed on a talented, deep Penguins team that rapidly rebuilt itself last summer. Most rookies, he said, don't play alongside a Mario Lemieux or Mark Recchi, a John LeClair or Sergei Gonchar or Ziggy Palffy.

Eight games and eight losses later, four in overtime, Crosby still thinks the Penguins are a good team - and, he insisted Monday, a potentially great team.

"It's a little frustrating, but it's hockey - you go through skids and this happens to be a long one, but you have to look at it and see it's a long season," Crosby said. "Once we get over this hump we'll be fine."

Crosby assisted on goals by Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik in Pittsburgh's 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Pittsburgh has led in only one of its eight games, a 7-6 overtime loss to the Bruins on Oct. 8. The Penguins hope to break through for a win and take advantage of home ice with three straight games against Florida, Atlanta and Carolina at Mellon Arena.

The Panthers, though, went 4-0 against the Penguins in 2003-2004 and have outscored Pittsburgh 36-13 in winning nine straight in the series.

Florida has not played since beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Thursday behind its special teams as Anthony Stewart and Mike Van Ryn scored on power plays, and Juraj Kolnik added a short-handed goal.

"The play of our special teams has been losing us games," Van Ryn said. "It was nice to win one that way."

The approach of Hurricane Wilma forced the NHL to postpone the Panthers home game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

STANDINGS (through Oct. 23): Panthers - 10 points, 1st place (tied), Southeast Division. Penguins - 4 points, 5th place, 7 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Kolnik and Nathan Horton, 4 goals; Van Ryn, 5 assists; Van Ryn and Olli Jokinen, 6 points; Branislav Mezei, 27 PIM. Penguins - Palffy, 4 goals; Crosby, 9 assists and 11 points; Gonchar, 20 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 23): Panthers - Power play: 10.5 percent (6 for 57), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (44 for 54), 18th. Penguins - Power play: 17.3 percent (9 for 52), 15th. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (48 for 61), 24th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Roberto Luongo (5-4-0, 2 SO, 2.25 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-0-0, 1.13). Penguins - Jocelyn Thibault (0-3-0, 6.30); Sebastien Caron (0-0-3, 3.61).

2003-2004 SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 20, 2004; Panthers, 2-0. At Pittsburgh, Luongo made 34 saves to record his 20th career shutout and hand the Penguins their 17th straight loss.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 1-3-0 on the road; Penguins - 0-2-1 at home.

Associated Press

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