Part of the surge in John Tavares' play the last three games came from a decision by Jack Capuano. The coach put Kyle Okposo on the right side with Tavares and Matt Moulson, dropping P.A. Parenteau to the second line.
"It's not a knock against P.A. -- he's like a utility guy for me, I can put him anywhere and he'll play his game," Capuano said. "Kyle just gave those guys a big body to work with."
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Okposo has some skill, too, as evidenced by his slam-dunk goal off a brilliant feed from Tavares with 1:30 to go in the third period Tuesday. That tied the score, on the way to a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, the Isles' third straight victory with Okposo on the top line.
Tavares has become much more bullish below the hash marks during the last week, making a strong play with the puck around and behind the net on just about every shift. Okposo and Moulson have been reading Tavares' moves and helping create space for their playmaker.
"I think I've had a little more room to work with," Tavares said after his three-assist game Tuesday, giving him two goals and five assists during the three-game streak. "I feel like I've been pretty good down low all season long, but with Kyle out there, there's some more space and we've taken advantage."
That line's run began a week ago against the Flames, when Tavares took a chip pass from Okposo, steamed up the right boards and banged in the game-winner early in the third. He also had a key assist to set up Moulson in a 4-1 win over the Oilers.
As usual, Tavares isn't satisfied. "I probably could've and should've had a couple goals myself tonight," he said.
Capuano has some doubts about the other three lines, which have totaled only two goals during the streak -- Brian Rolston's empty-netter on Thursday and Matt Martin's goal against the Oilers on Saturday -- but there's little doubt about Tavares, Okposo and Moulson. Opponents now have to throw all the defensive skill they have when that line is on the ice.
Notes & quotes: G Rick DiPietro is still being evaluated for a lower-body injury . . . D Mike Mottau returned from Raleigh on Tuesday with possible concussion symptoms . . . D Calvin de Haan was the lone Bridgeport player named to the AHL All-Star Game.