The Carolina Hurricanes haven't played at all like the team that captured the Stanley Cup less than four months ago.
Still seeking their first win, the Hurricanes (0-3-1) take on a team off to a hot start when they face the Atlanta Thrashers (3-0-1) at Philips Arena on Friday night.
"We know we've got to get in the win column and turn this thing around," Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican said. "And we've got to start as soon as possible."
To do that, Carolina needs to start keeping the puck out of its own net. Only Phoenix (19) has allowed more goals than the Hurricanes' 18, and the defending champs have been outscored 11-5 in dropping the first two games of a season-high seven-game road trip.
The Hurricanes have struggled just as badly on offense. Carolina, third in the NHL with 294 goals last season, has just seven so far and is 3-for-28 on the power play.
The absence of left wing Cory Stillman, out after offseason shoulder surgery, has hurt. Carolina has also gotten no production out of captain Rod Brind'Amour, who is pointless this season. Both players had at least 70 points last season.
Brind'Amour had a goal and eight assists in eight games against Atlanta last season.
Fixing its problems on defense and offense may be tough for Carolina to do against Atlanta, which has scored 13 goals and given up only four in jumping out to a two-point lead in the Southeast Division.
Kari Lehtonen is the primary reason why the Thrashers have been so difficult to score against. The 22-year-old goaltender set a franchise record with a 167-minute, 56-second scoreless streak, a run that ended with a second-period goal in Wednesday's 4-1 win over Boston.
"I was not expecting anything like this," said Lehtonen, 3-0-1 with a 0.74 goals-against average and two shutouts this season. "Not even in my wildest dreams."
Lehtonen is 1-3 with a 3.54 GAA in four starts against Carolina, all of which came last season.
"Kari has been unbelievable for us so far," Thrashers forward Marian Hossa said. "But I also think we're doing a much better job of helping out Kari."
Atlanta has allowed one even-strength goal and killed off 23 of 25 short-handed situations.
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, a star of Carolina's run to the Stanley Cup, hasn't been nearly as good as his Thrashers counterpart this season. Ward has a 3.57 GAA and a save percentage of just .857, and the Hurricanes went with veteran John Grahame against Florida on Wednesday night.
The change in net failed to spark Carolina, as Grahame gave up six goals on 31 shots in a 6-3 loss.
"My team's fighting it a little bit and the goalie needs to come up big," Grahame said. "It was a good opportunity for me and I think I let everybody down."
The Hurricanes' sputtering power play didn't help matters, converting once in eight opportunities.
While Carolina is having trouble scoring, Hossa has powered the Thrashers offensively in his second season since arriving in the Dany Heatley trade with Ottawa. He had a goal and an assist Wednesday, increasing his season total to four goals and three assists.
The Hurricanes and Thrashers split eight meetings last season, with each team going 2-2 at home.