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Hurricanes-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (7-2-1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (1-4-5).

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

The Pittsburgh Penguins overhauled their team in the offseason, adding highly touted Sidney Crosby and several talented veterans to bolster the offense of a team that has endured three straight losing seasons.

Nearly a month into the season, it's clear the Penguins still have problems in goal.

Pittsburgh looks to make it back-to-back wins when it faces red-hot Eric Staal and the surprising Carolina Hurricanes at Mellon Arena.

Shortly after the lockout ended, the Penguins acquired veteran goaltender Jocelyn Thibault from the Chicago Blackhawks and signed him to a two-year, $3 million deal.

Thibault, who has 227 career wins, has struggled thus far. A knee injury and inconsistent play have limited him to four games and he enters this contest with a 5.65 goals-against average - the NHL's highest this season.

The Penguins also have used Marc-Andre Fleury, the top overall pick in the 2003 draft, and Sebastien Caron in goal, but neither has fared well. Penguins' netminders have also allowed a league-worst 48 goals.

Pittsburgh has given up fewer than two goals only once this season, eventually dropping a 3-2 shootout decision Oct. 7 against Carolina.

Pittsburgh earned its first win of the season Thursday, rallying from an early four-goal deficit for a 7-5 victory over visiting Atlanta.

Caron surrendered four goals before the game was 10 minutes old.

"It's been frustrating for all of us," said captain Mario Lemieux, who had two goals and three assists Thursday. "It was scary early in the game but we stayed in there and made a game of it. But it didn't look good early, that's for sure."

Crosby continued to produce with two assists, giving him 12, and 14 points, in 10 games. He has at least a point in all but one of his first 10 NHL games.

The news, however, wasn't all good for the Penguins, who lost top defenseman Dick Tarnstrom to a knee injury that will keep him out indefinitely. Tarnstrom led the Penguins with 52 points in 2003-04.

The Hurricanes have been one of the league's biggest surprises, winning four in a row and six of their last seven games.

Staal continued his torrid scoring with a hat trick Friday as Carolina rallied from a two-goal deficit for the third straight game en route to an 8-6 victory over visiting Philadelphia.

"The way our team's playing right now," Staal said, "you can't really count us out. I think the league's taking notice of that."

Rod Brind'Amour added a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, who at 7-2-1 are off to the best start in franchise history. The team's previous best start after 10 games was a 6-3-1 opening in 1984 as the Hartford Whalers.

Staal, who turns 21 on Saturday, has four goals and six assists during a five-game points streak. He leads the NHL with 18 points.

Matt Cullen extended his goals streak with a power-play tally in the third period Friday, giving him five goals in Carolina's last four games.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 15 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Penguins - 7 points, 5th place, 6 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 9 goals, 9 assists and 18 points; Mike Commodore, 18 PIM. Penguins - Lemieux, 5 goals; Crosby, 12 assists and 14 points; Sergei Gonchar, 24 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 20 percent (13 for 65), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (47 for 59), 21st. Penguins - Power play: 22.6 percent (17 for 75), 5th. Penalty killing: 76 percent (57 for 75), tied for 26th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (3-1-0, 0 SO, 2.47 GAA); Cam Ward (4-1-1, 3.06). Penguins - Thibault (0-3-1, 5.65); Caron (1-0-3, 3.95).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 7; Hurricanes, 3-2, SO. At Raleigh, N.C., Ward, making his first career start, stopped Lemieux and Crosby during the shootout to preserve the win.

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

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