How important is Tuesday's Game 2 between the Flyers and New Jersey Devils?

Well consider this: The Flyers are 18-0 in series when they win the first two games.

They are just 17-15 in series that start with one win apiece.

The Flyers won the opener in OT, 4-3. In that game, the Flyers spent most of the last two-plus periods in New Jersey's end.

That has to change, Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.

"The best defense is a good forecheck and spending time in their end," he said on Monday.

     The health of 37-goal wingers Scott Hartnell and the Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk will be a factor in Game 2.

Hartnell had an ice pack on his left foot Monday but is expected to play Tuesday. He limped off the ice after blocking a shot Sunday but returned to the action.

In seven playoff games this spring, Hartnell has two goals and four assists.

Kovalchuk is also battling an injury. He had treatment Monday on what is believed to be a lower-back ailment. Kovalchuk had no shots Sunday.

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The Devils showed in Game 1 they will be a formidable opponent in this Turnpike Series against the Flyers, but...

For the heck of it, let's assume the Flyers get past the Devils; they would then be HEAVY underdogs if matched against the New York Rangers.

That's why, we suspect, the Flyers were happy to see the Washington Capitals outlast the host Rangers on Monday, 3-2, and even their series at one game apiece.

The Caps can capture the series if they win their three home games. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Based on their 0-6 record against New York in the regular season, the Flyers aren't given much of a chance to to beat the Rangers if they meet in the conference finals.

Washington would be a much easier road to the Cup Finals.

But, again, the Flyers must first handle an underrated Devils team that had 102 regular-season points _ just one fewer than the Orange and Black.

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A Flyers-Flyers West (Kings) Stanley Cup Final seemed like a ridiculous suggestion before the playoffs started. Now? Well, it's still a longshot....but the odds seem to be getting better each night.