Penguins Notebook: Orpik answers SOS at left winger
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Brooks Orpik has played 265 games in the NHL. Another 152 in the American Hockey League, and 119 more at Boston College. To say nothing of hundreds of others at various levels before that.
- Matchup: Penguins at Atlanta Thrashers, 7:08 p.m. today, Philips Arena.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Dany Sabourin for Penguins. Kari Lehtonen for Thrashers.
- Penguins: Own all-time record of 10-3-2 in Atlanta. ... C Evgeni Malkin has just one goal in six career games against Thrashers. ... Have winning record on every day of week except Wednesday, when they are 1-4.
- Thrashers: Are 12-12-2 at home, including 3-2 shootout victory Jan. 12 against Penguins. ... C Eric Perrin has scored or set up seven of Thrashers' nine shorthanded goals. ... Have gone 6-3-1 in games tied after two periods.
- Hidden stat: Only two of Atlanta LW Ilya Kovalchuk's 37 goals have been winners.
But until last night, when he was used at left wing on the Penguins' fourth line for their game against New Jersey at the Prudential Center, he never had spent any of them at forward.
"I've been a defenseman since day one," Orpik said.
Coach Michel Therrien said he decided to use Orpik up front because the Penguins began the evening with seven healthy defensemen but only 11 forwards.
"We figured he was the best candidate [to move]," Therrien said. "He can skate, he's got size."
What he doesn't have is much of a scoring touch. Orpik had gone 172 games without a goal before facing the Devils.
Asked why he believed he was selected to play forward, Orpik forced a smile and said, "It's for my offense, I guess."
He added that his plan going into the game was " to just play, don't get caught thinking too much," and Therrien stressed that using Orpik on the wing was a stopgap move.
"This is for a short period of time," he said. "We're not making a career change."
Therrien believes center Kris Beech, claimed on waivers from Washington last week, could join the Penguins as early as today.
That doesn't mean he'll be in uniform anytime soon. Therrien said Beech definitely will not dress for the Penguins' game against Atlanta tonight at Philips Arena.
Beech has been delayed at the U.S.-Canadian border by an immigration issue -- he has been trying to get the work visa a Canadian citizen needs to play for a U.S.-based club -- and likely will work out with the Penguins several times before getting into the lineup.
"He hasn't been on the ice for a week, so he's going to have to get in game shape and practice," Therrien said. "It's going to take a few days for him to get back into shape and be able to play."
Devils coach Brent Sutter, a renowned disciplinarian, didn't make it back from an All-Star break trip to Red Deer, Alberta, in time to run New Jersey's practice Monday -- even after it was pushed back from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. -- but said yesterday he won't be fined for it.
"I would have been here the day before," he said. "Unfortunately, you don't control what happens with airplanes."
Sutter said his original flight back from Calgary turned around after about a half-hour in the air and "had to go back and have an emergency landing."
A replacement aircraft was brought in, he said, but it had mechanical problems that prevented it from taking off. The one that finally got him to New Jersey left Calgary in mid-afternoon Monday.
A lot of people were surprised when Penguins winger Georges Laraque wasn't punished by the league for shoving Philadelphia winger Steve Downie into the boards from behind Thursday at the Wachovia Center.
Laraque, who received a major penalty and game misconduct for his actions, isn't one of them.
"What would they call?" Laraque said. "I didn't hit him, I pushed him, and he just embellished it with a dive.
"It wasn't an intent [to injure]. If intent is there, I understand [a player being suspended], but I just pushed him. ... It wasn't a deliberate hit from behind, or whatever."
First Published January 30, 2008 12:00 am