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One week into the season, the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes are on the verge of setting a dubious record.

Carolina will try to avoid becoming the first team in NHL history to start defense of its championship with four straight losses Wednesday when it meets the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

With a 5-2 defeat against Washington on Saturday, the Hurricanes (0-2-1) joined the 1955-56 Detroit Red Wings as the only defending champions to open the next season with three straight losses, and the frustration appears to be getting to coach Peter Laviolette.

"We're kidding ourselves. We're taking bad penalties instead of doing the work. We're mouthing off instead of doing the work. And selfish acts are costing us games," he said. "It needs to be corrected, and it will be."

Goaltender Cam Ward, last season's Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, has a 3.57 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. To jump start his team, Laviolette may start new backup goalie John Grahame in net. Grahame helped Tampa Bay to its only championship in 2004 and had 29 wins, including five shutouts last season for the Lightning.

In his last four starts against the Panthers, though, Grahame is 0-3 with a 6.80 GAA and .838 save percentage.

The Hurricanes have not gone winless in their first four games since starting the 2003-04 season with two losses and three ties.

Carolina has been outscored 11-4 this season. Ray Whitney and Justin Williams, who each have two assists, are the only players on the team with more than one point. Eric Staal, who led Carolina with 45 goals and 55 assists last season, has just one goal.

The Panthers (1-1-1) are coming off Monday's 2-1 shootout loss to Toronto. Since opening the season with an 8-3 victory at home against Boston on Friday, Florida has been outscored 7-1.

Alex Auld stopped 47 shots against the Leafs, but gave up goals to Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker in the shootout.

"It's a little frustrating," Auld said. "To come that close to winning here, obviously it's tough not to get the (win)."

Auld made 37 saves in the win over the Bruins, and relieved Ed Belfour in a 6-0 loss to Atlanta on Saturday. Belfour, making his Panthers debut after three seasons in Toronto, stopped only five of nine shots before being replaced early in the second period.

The Hurricanes went 6-1-1 against the Panthers last season, winning the first five meetings. Rod Brind'Amour, still looking for his first point of the season, scored five goals - including four on the power play - against the Panthers. Staal had four goals and seven assists.

The Panthers' Olli Jokinen had five goals and five assists against the Hurricanes.

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