ATLANTA -- Sitting in the visiting locker room of Philips Arena some 12 hours after his first game at left wing ended, Brooks Orpik looked a bit dazed by the experience.
"Comfortable? I don't know about comfortable," said Orpik, who, because of a series of injuries and illnesses, was asked by Penguins coaches to switch from his lifelong position of defenseman for a 4-2 win Tuesday at New Jersey.
"It was weird. You're used to having the whole play in front of you. Your vision, your sight lines are so different."
He was back on the wing last night against the Thrashers.
"For whatever reason, I was the chosen one," said Orpik, who got a quick primer from assistant coach Mike Yeo before the game against the Devils and played 6:49 with one shot.
"They said, 'Here's the system. We're not expecting a perfect game out of you. We just want energy out of you.'"
Atlanta forward and former Penguin Chris Thorburn was surprised about the move.
"To see him on the left wing, it's a little shocking," Thorburn said. "He's a physical presence, and he's got speed and talent. He might be out of his element a little bit, but, as soon as he catches it, he'll be a force."
That's probably only if the Penguins continue to lose players.
"Everyone's helping the team out, doing whatever they can," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "[Orpik] did a good job with that."
Atlanta winger Ilya Kovalchuk came out of the All-Star Game break as the NHL's No. 2 goal-scorer; he had 37, two fewer than Alex Ovechkin of Washington.
He also has made a strong impression on ex-Penguin Mark Recchi, who plays on the Thrashers' top line with Kovalchuk and is proving to be an effective set-up man for him.
"I definitely see him differently now that I see him every day," Recchi said. "He's pretty scary. The one thing that really surprised me is how big he is. He's 220, 225 pounds. He's a big kid. He's got a big rear end and legs. He's a big horse.
"He's a little like Sidney [Crosby]. They have that same passion, that same drive. They really want to be the best. He wants to learn and he wants to get better."
A couple weeks ago, Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella called the Southeast Division "mediocre."
The Thrashers can't argue.
"We just happen to be in a division this year that may be a little weaker than the other divisions," said Atlanta coach and general manager Don Waddell.
"I keep reminding people, though, that two of the past three Stanley Cup champions have come out of our division.
"This year nobody's jumped out from the five teams to take charge of the division, and that's why there's an opportunity for all five teams to win the division."
Going into last night, the Southeast teams accounted for five of the nine lowest point totals in the Eastern Conference. Only the division winner is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
"We know we have less points than other divisions, but the division is really tight, and anybody could win," Hossa said.
Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin had an explanation for ducking reporters after he had two assists Sunday in his first All-Star Game here.
"Cameras," Malkin said in English.
Anxiety over interviews not in his native Russian aside, he enjoyed the weekend.
"It was very fun," he said. "Good show."
Because of high winds, the Penguins had a rough flight Tuesday night from New Jersey to Atlanta. "That was one of the worst I've [been on]. It was bumpy for two hours," goaltender Dany Sabourin said. ... The Penguins had a team meeting instead of a morning skate. ... Penguins scratches were forwards Colby Armstrong (illness) and Kris Beech (visa snag).