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Penguins-Thrashers Preview @NHL
Penguins-Thrashers Preview

GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (4-6-5) at Atlanta Thrashers (4-9-1).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins earned the right to select Sidney Crosby No. 1 overall in this year's draft, they expected him to be a difference maker.

Fifteen games into his career, Crosby is making even Hall of Fame players take notice.

Pittsburgh looks for its fourth win in five games when it wraps up a five-game road trip Wednesday night at Philips Arena against the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Penguins opened the season with nine straight losses, five of the coming in overtime or in a shootout. Since then, however, the Penguins have started to play like a team ready to move up in the standings.

Crosby's play has been a large part of that resurgence. The budding star had a goal Monday in the Penguins' 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.

"Every game he gets better," said Mario Lemieux, who needs 11 goals for 700 in his Hall of Fame career. "That's amazing that he just turned 18 and he's our best player night in and night out. It's incredible."

So far on Pittsburgh's road trip, Crosby has three goals and two assists. He also is showing skill on the power play: six of his team-leading 14 assists have come with the man-advantage.

He had two assists, both on the power play, in Pittsburgh's first win of the season, a 7-5 triumph Oct. 27 against Atlanta.

Atlanta is coming off a 4-3 loss Saturday to the Philadelphia Flyers. Marian Hossa, Peter Bondra and Serge Aubin scored and Slava Kozlov had two assists for the Thrashers, who have lost four of five.

Hossa, acquired just before the start of the season from the Ottawa Senators for Dany Heatley, has points in 10 of Atlanta's 14 games. Kozlov has two goals and seven assists during a six-game points streak.

Poor penalty killing has hurt Atlanta so far this season. In their last six games, the Thrashers have been short-handed 36 times, allowing 11 goals.

Overall, Atlanta's penalty killing is the worst in the league.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 8): Penguins - 13 points, 5th place, 6 PB, Atlantic Division. Thrashers - 9 points, 5th place, 12 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Lemieux, Mark Recchi and Ziggy Palffy, 6 goals; Crosby, 14 assists and 19 points; Brooks Orpik, 32 PIM. Thrashers - Bondra, 7 goals; Hossa and Greg de Vries, 10 assists; Hossa, 16 points; Eric Boulton, 40 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 8): Penguins - Power play: 20.1 percent (22 for 109), 9th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 75.9 percent (82 for 108), 28th (tied). Thrashers - Power play: 21.5 percent (22 for 102), 6th. Penalty killing: 75.9 percent (79 for 104), 29th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Sebastien Caron (4-2-3, 0 SO, 3.63 GAA); Jocelyn Thibault (0-3-1, 0, 5.22). Thrashers - Mike Dunham (2-3-1, 0, 2.68); Steve Shields (1-2-0, 0, 4.69).

SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 27; Penguins, 7-5. At Pittsburgh, Lemieux scored two goals and had three assists to lead the Penguins to their first win of the season. Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and three assists for the Thrashers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 3-3-3 on the road; Thrashers - 2-4-0 at home.

Associated Press

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