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Hurricanes face Penguins as bid for playoffs continue

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RALEIGH (AP) -- As Stanley Cup champions, the Carolina Hurricanes are expected to defend their title. But unless they improve their play down the stretch, they may not have the chance.

Carolina will be trying to get back on the winning track tonight when the 'Canes host NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Hurricanes had a chance to move up the Eastern Conference standings when they met Ottawa in a home-and-home series, but they lost the opener 4-to-2 at home and then suffered a 2-to-0 road defeat on Wednesday.

Carolina is a point behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Crosby was held without a goal in regulation for 14th time in 15 games, but he registered the only shootout tally last night in the Penguins' 4-to-3 come-from-behind victory over the New York Rangers.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)